This week marks the 21st anniversary of the Missile Crisis of 1996, when China fired missiles off the northern and southern tips of Taiwan and held large-scale military exercises to intimidate the Taiwanese ahead of the country's first-ever direct presidential election. Much of that history, and the lessons learned, is forgotten. In the new regional order, what does this mean for Taiwan, and what role can it play in a part of the world that is now bristling with ballistic missiles?
Twenty-one years ago this week, as Taiwanese were readying to hold their country’s first direct presidential election later in March, China flexed its military muscles by holding a series of military exercises and firing missiles within thirty-five miles off the ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung, causing a panic in Taiwan and prompted U.S. President William J. Clinton to deploy a carrier battle group to international waters near Taiwan.
The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, as the events came to be known, disrupted naval shipping and commercial air traffic, causing harm to Taiwan’s economy. Amid fears of a possible invasion—fuelled by planned People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exercises simulating an amphibious assault and live-fire exercises near the outlying island of Penghu—Taiwanese scrambled to reserve seats on flights to North America.
My article, published today in The National Interest, continues here.