US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan

In an alarming tit-for-tat June 9, Taiwan's defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country's air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office as "an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident." This comes as the US is deploying two aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the San Diego-based USS Nimitz and the Yokosuka-based USS Ronald Reagan. These join the USS Theodore Roosevelt, also based in San Diego but now patrolling the Philippine Sea near Guam. This marks the first time in three years that three US strike gorups have been simultaneously deployed to the Pacific, in what is being seen as an explicit warning to China. The triple deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the coronavirus crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. "Through the course of the COVID crisis we saw a surge of maritime activity," Schneider told Reuters. (The Hill, The Hill, USNI News, Reuters, AP)

New Cold War getting scarier

So US Secretary of State Pompeo, having just sanctioned Chinese companies involved in Uighur forced labor, makes an openly Cold War-nostalgist speech, calling "totalitarian" China a threat to "free democracies around the world," and nearly broaching the verboten phrase "regime change." He quotes Nixon from 1967 saying, "The world cannot be safe until China changes. Thus, our aim...should be to induce change." But Pompeo goes on to add that "engagement...has not brought the kind of change inside of China that President Nixon had hoped to induce."

And this comes just as China has ordered the US to close its consulate in Chengdu in retaliation for the Trump admin ordering China to close its consulate in Houston, on rather vague charges of spying. (Bloomberg)

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu meanwhile warns that China has conducted an "unprecedented" number of sea and air drills around the island nation in 2020, with the pace rising to nearly once every day since June. "The threat is on the rise," he said.

He also speculated that this could be related to China's domestic woes—a steep economic slowdown and COVID-19: "A country will often use an exterior crisis to change the domestic focus. If we look at the contested issues around China’s periphery, we see that for China, Taiwan would be an extremely convenient sacrificial lamb." (WaPo)

And Trump, of course, may similarly want a crisis with China to lubcricate the November election. So Trump and Xi are actually cooperating—even if it is a very dangerous game. 

And what's really maddening about it... The "leftists" are going to rally around the PRC, which really is totalitarian. Chinese dissidents, Hong Kong protesters, Uighurs and Tibetans are going to rally around Pompeo and Trump. Once again: a global divide-and-conquer scam is the essence of the state system

Taiwan sends marines to contested islands

Taiwan’s military has sent a marine company to reinforce the garrison on a small outpost in the South China Sea amid reports that the People’s Liberation Army was planning a simulated attack on the islets. A military source said the navy had sent a company of around 200 marines to reinforce the coastguards stationed on the Pratas Islands, which are known as the Dongsha Islands in Chinese. (SCMP)

China tests Biden over Taiwan

China sent warplanes into the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, in a clear show of force to the new Biden administration.

Taiwan's military said that four Chinese fighter jets, eight bombers and one anti-submarine aircraft entered its southwestern air defense identification zone and crossed the midline that divides the Taiwan Strait on Jan. 23. That was followed by 12 fighters, two anti-submarine aircraft and a reconnaissance plane on the 24th.

Taiwan's military said it sent radio warnings to the Chinese planes, put defense missile systems on alert and dispatched patrol aircraft to monitor them. (NYT)

China: Taiwan independence 'means war'

China has warned Taiwan that any attempt to seek independence "means war." A Defence Ministry spokesman said: "The military activities carried out by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security, They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by 'Taiwan independence' forces... We warn those 'Taiwan independence' elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and 'Taiwan independence' means war."

The warning comes days after China stepped up its military activities and flew warplanes near the island. It also comes after new US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to Taiwan, and set out his stance in Asia. The US called China's latest warning "unfortunate." (BBC News, Reuters)

Biden sends warship into Taiwan Strait

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer, the Japan-based USS John S McCain, through the Taiwan Strait on Feb. 4, the first time a US warship has gone through the waterway that separates China and Taiwan during the Biden administration.

The last transit occurred on New Year's Eve when the McCain and a second destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, went through the strait. US warships transited the waterway 13 times in 2020, according to the US 7th Fleet, the most since 12 such transits in 2016, the final year of President Obama's administration. (CNN)

Blinken dresses down China

Antony Blinken, the new US secretary of state, boasted of reprimanding China's top foreign policy official after his first official telephone call with him. "I made clear the US will defend our national interests, stand up for our democratic values, and hold Beijing accountable for its abuses of the international system," Blinken tweeted

Blinken spoke with Yang Jiechi, former minister of foreign affairs, but now director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, an organ of the party rather than the state. In his own account of the call, Yang said he called for "no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation" when speaking of bilateral ties. "Let's each manage our own business," Yang reportedly told Blinken. (FT, CGTN)

Taiwan Strait escalation continues

Twenty Chinese warplanes flew into Taiwan's air defence zone on March 26, marking its biggest incursion. It came one day after the US and Taiwan agreed to boost co-operation between their coast guards.

The rising alarm in the Biden administration matches a warning from Adm. Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific command, who told senators China could take military action "in the next six years."

Adm. John Aquilino, who is scheduled to succeed Davidson, this week told Congress that there was a wide range of forecasts but "my opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think." (FT)

Taiwan: 'Record number' of China jets enter air zone

Taiwan has said a record number of Chinese military jets flew into its air defence zone on April 12. The defense ministry said 25 aircraft including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers entered its so-called air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

The latest incident came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was concerned about China's "increasingly aggressive actions" towards Taiwan.

In an interview with NBC he stressed the US legal commitment to Taiwan and said Washington would "make sure Taiwan has the ability to defend itself," adding that it would be a "serious mistake for anyone to try to change the status quo by force." (BBC News)