China continues to ramp up pressure on Taiwan and flex its muscles in the South China Sea.
Up to 12 fighter jets from the air force arm of the People’s Liberation Army pierced the democratic island’s defense zone.
The incident came as the United States’ guided-missile destroyer, John S McCain, went through “routine” freedom of navigation exercises in the Taiwan Strait earlier this week.
In response, the Liaoning carrier group of the PLA Navy was spotted conducting drills close to Taiwan before moving deeper into the South China Sea.
The region has become a hotspot in the New Cold War between Beijing and Washington as President Xi Jinping’s administration flaunts its military might.
“From my limited understanding of American decision-makers watching developments in this region, they clearly see the danger of the possibility of China launching an attack against Taiwan,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a media briefing, according to the Reuters news agency.
- Fifteen Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighters, entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
- An anti-submarine aircraft was also seen flying to the south through the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
- Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighter jets to intercept and warn the Chinese aircraft, the Ministry of Defence in Taipei said.
- Beijing has stepped up “exercises” in and around Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
- The ruling Communist Party of China considers the island a renegade province.
- It has threatened to reunite the island with the “motherland” by force if necessary.
- Taiwan has become a bastion of democracy with a high-tech economy.
What was said: “We are willing to defend ourselves and we will fight a war if we need to fight a war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, we will defend ourselves to the very last day,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Wu told a media briefing.
Washington warning: The US State Department has expressed “concern” about China’s increased military activity. “[Our commitment to Taiwan] is rock solid. As reflected in the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force, or other forms of coercion, that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a media briefing.
China’s reaction: “The US move to send [a] warship to sail through the Taiwan Strait and hype it publicly is an old trick to ‘manipulate’ the cross-Strait situation. China is firmly opposed to that,” Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, a spokesman for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command, said in a statement.
Big picture: “You’re seeing an escalation of saber-rattling by Beijing in the Taiwan Straits. The core focus, though, is, not only does Beijing have the military capability, but what are the domestic political calculations for the Xi administration as they contemplate this,” Jude Blanchette, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said as reported by the South China Morning Post.
China Factor comment: The unthinkable is now being routinely discussed. President Xi’s over-confident and increasingly nationalistic government might just decide the time is ripe to invade Taiwan. That scenario would have been dismissed as ridiculous a decade ago but not anymore. Last month, Admiral Philip Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress that Xi appeared to be accelerating his plan to take Taiwan.