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World News

Factbox: Key facts on Taiwan-China relations as military tensions soar

(Reuters) - China has claimed Taiwan through its “one China” policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang, or Nationalists, to flee to the island in 1949, and has vowed to bring it under Beijing’s rule, by force if necessary.

Following are key facts on ties between Taiwan and China:

POLITICS

- Relations warmed considerably after Ma Ying-jeou, from the Kuomintang party, which favours close ties to China, took office as president in 2008 and then won re-election in 2012. Ma held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015.

- Since the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen first became president in 2016, Taiwan-China ties have soured again, with China cutting off a formal dialogue mechanism, flying fighters and bombers near Taiwan, forcing foreign firms to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, and whittling away Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.

Beijing believes Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide in January, wants to push Taiwan’s formal independence, a red line for China. She says Taiwan is already an independent country, the Republic of China, its official name.

MILITARY

- China and Taiwan have nearly gone to war several times since 1949, most recently ahead of the 1996 presidential election. Then, China carried out missile tests in waters close to the island hoping to prevent people voting for Lee Teng-hui, who China suspected of harbouring pro-independence views. Lee won convincingly.

- Taiwan says China has thousands of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles as well as cruise missiles pointed at Taiwan, and that China runs a sophisticated online disinformation campaign to support China-friendly politicians.

- Taiwan and China last joined battle on a large scale in 1958, when Chinese forces carried out more than a month of bombardments of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen and Matsu islands, including naval and air battles.

- The United States is obliged to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. China always reacts angrily to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and has repeatedly demanded they stop.

- The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

- China has the world’s largest armed forces, which have been rapidly modernising, adding stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and new submarines, under an ambitious programme overseen by Xi.

Taiwan’s far smaller military is mostly supplied by the United States. It is well trained but experts say the island could likely only hold out for a few days in the event of a Chinese attack unless the United States quickly came to its aid.

Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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