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)