China poses a 'real and immediate' threat to Taiwan which must work to bolster its defences, America's top diplomat to the island has warned.
James Moriarty, speaking Wednesday night at an event to mark Taiwan's National Day in Washington, said China's recent show-of-strength in the skies near the island are a reminder of the threat it faces.
Moriarty, who heads the American Institute in Taiwan which represents the US on the island, said the incursions underlined the need for the ruling Republic of China to establish 'a powerful intimidating [defence] force as soon as possible.'
James Moriarty, America's top diplomat in Taiwan, has warned that China poses a 'real and immediate threat' to the island
He spoke after 150 Chinese warplanes violated Taiwan's 'air defence zone' at the weekend, including 52 which flew in the single-largest mission to date
China flew some 150 aircraft into Taiwan's 'air defence zone' over the weekend in one of the largest displays of force in recent years.
The missions had caused international alarm, Moriarty added, showing that the world is now paying attention to Taiwan and is ready to lend support.
Underlining his point, delegations of Australian and French diplomats visited the island on Thursday - holding high-level meetings with President Tsai Ing-wen.
Alain Richard, head of the French mission and a former defence minister, referred to Taiwan as 'a country' during as he was awarded the Order of Propitious Clouds for helping to establish diplomatic ties.
The remark is sure to infuriate Beijing, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province.
Officially, it is not recognised as a country under international law, though the government considers it to be an independent state.
The Chinese embassy in Paris warned that Richard's visit will damage the interests of China, Chinese-French relations and 'the image of France'.
Meanwhile former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot was also on the island today, also in an effort to improve relations and 'end the isolation from which Taiwan has been suffering for so many decades.'
'Over the past 70 years, Taiwan has transformed from an impoverished dictatorship into a vibrant, dynamic, pluralist democracy,' he said as he arrived.
China's sabre-rattling has not gone unanswered, with British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth leading a joint strike group in exercises in the South China Sea
'You have demonstrated to all the countries of this region that it is possible to be rich and free.'
It is not clear if Mr Abbot will meet with the French mission while he is on the island.
Australia's relations with France are currently strained after Canberra ripped up a billion-dollar contract to buy French submarines and signed a new deal with the UK and US to acquire nuclear ones - dubbed AUKUS.
The move infuriated Beijing, which warned it risked stability in the region by upsetting the balance of power.
Western nations have been rushing to reaffirm their support for Taiwan as it faces down threats from an increasingly-assertive China.
Tensions have been building ever since a 2019 speech by President Xi Jinping in which he vowed to 'reunify' Taiwan with mainland China - using force if necessary.
He spoke against the backdrop of a rapid expansion of China's military, including the construction of new bases in the South China Sea - where Taiwan is located and over which Beijing claim supreme authority.
That has prompted the US - a long-standing ally of Taiwan - to forge new alliances in the region to counter-balance the growing threat.
As well as the AUKUS pact, Biden has entered into a strategic partnership known as The Quad with India, Japan and Australia to share intelligence and carry out joint military drills in the region.
China's sorties near Taiwan have included nuclear-capable H-6 bombers
In a huge show of force to Beijing, the US is also participating in huge naval exercises in the region led by Britain's newest aircraft carrier - HMS Queen Elizabeth.
'Big Lizzie', as she is affectionately known, is currently leading drills with a joint carrier strike group that includes the USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan, along with ships from New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada and Japan.
The carriers and their escorts have been carrying out drills in the South China Sea, and are expected to arrive in Singapore shortly.
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to 'do whatever it takes' to guard Taiwan against invasion as she indicated that without help from the country's allies 'authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.'
Tsai added: '[Democratic nations] should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic system.
'It would signal that in today's global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.'
Taiwan hopes for peaceful coexistence with China, she said, but 'if its democracy and way of life are threatened, Taiwan will do whatever it takes to defend itself.'
Tsai's government on Monday urged Beijing to stop 'irresponsible provocative actions' after the warplanes breached Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
'Amid almost daily intrusions by the People's Liberation Army, our position on cross-strait relations remains constant: Taiwan will not bend to pressure,' Tsai added.
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