Taiwan wary of potential ripples created by Ukraine crisis: defense minister

02/25/2022 04:25 PM
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Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (right) attends the opening of the new legislative session Friday. CNA photo Feb. 25, 2022
Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (right) attends the opening of the new legislative session Friday. CNA photo Feb. 25, 2022

Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Taiwan's Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said on Friday the military is closely monitoring the crisis in Ukraine and remains cautious of any ripples it might create in the Taiwan Strait.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday in what the Kremlin claimed as a "special military operation" to achieve the "demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine," but what Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called a full-scale invasion.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would launch a "special military operation" during a televised address Thursday morning, Russian military units have attacked several cities in Ukraine, with explosions reported in the eastern European capital Kyiv, according to media reports from inside the country. More than 100 Ukrainian people, including 10 soldiers, have been killed, according to Ukraine's president.

Speaking to local media before attending a Legislative Yuan meeting, the Taiwanese defense chief was asked to comment on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Chiu said his ministry was closely monitoring the situation but would not comment on the issue.

"What the [Taiwanese] military faces is China," Chiu said, adding that his ministry was on the alert for a potential ripple that the war Russia raged against Ukraine would make in the Taiwan Strait.

He said the military continues to focus on training and defense preparedness and will respond to any situations in a timely manner.

Chiu pointed out that Ukraine and Taiwan are different in terms of geopolitical and geographical situations, and that the two cannot be compared, alluding to online comments that put Taiwan on par with Ukraine.

While Chiu did not elaborate, he may be referring to the fact that Taiwan is strategically located in the Indo-Pacific region, an area the United States wants to maintain its influence.

Unlike Ukraine and Russia, Taiwan and mainland China, which claims the two sides are part of one country to be reunified eventually, do not share any land border and are separated by a body of water called the Taiwan Strait which is 180 kilometers wide.

Taiwan is also one of the world's biggest sources of semiconductors, crucial components for products including smart phones and cars.

Echoing Chiu's remarks, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Friday that Taiwan and Ukraine are fundamentally different in that Taiwan not only has the advantage of the Taiwan Strait but also has "geostrategic status."

The president said she has directed government agencies to counter possible cognitive warfare campaigns launched by China during this period, and to prevent China from using the Ukrainian crisis to spread misinformation and affect the morale in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), Eric Chu (朱立倫), said peace is critical and people should never underestimate the damage and risk of war.

Taiwan should have a strong national defense and should never depend on anyone but itself, Chu said, adding that it is important to facilitate peace through dialogue.

(By Kuo Chien-shen, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Teng Pei-ju)

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Update

Feb. 25: Taiwan evacuates citizens from Kyiv by bus amid Ukraine crisis

Feb. 25: Ukraine backers rally outside Russian representative office in Taipei

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