World Tensions flare as Chinese flights near Taiwan intensify
China Warplane Fleet Enters Taiwan's Air Defense Zone After Two-Month Lull
Beijing's use of military aircraft to put pressure on Taiwan has decreased since record-breaking incursions were recorded in April.The frequency of Beijing's flights near its democratic neighbor has declined since spring, when Taiwan's Defense Ministry logged record-breaking figures.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — With record numbers of military flights near Taiwan over the last week, China has been showing a new intensity and military sophistication as it steps up its harassment of the island it claims as its own and asserts its territorial ambitions in the region.
China's People's Liberation Army flew 56 planes in international airspace off the southwest coast of Taiwan on Monday, setting a new record and capping four days of sustained pressure involving 149 flights. The actions came as China, with growing diplomatic and military power, faces greater pushback from countries in the region and as Taiwan pleads for more global support and recognition.
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Ship-tracking software showed Taiwan Coast Guard vessels sailing into the Pacific on Tuesday and Wednesday, but no U.S. Coast Guard ships were detected nearby.The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei, confirmed on Wednesday the first meeting had taken place of the U.S.-Taiwan Coast Guard Working Group (CGWG)—a pact agreed back in March as a way to increase maritime cooperation between the two countries.
The U.S. called China's latest actions “risky” and “destabilizing,” while China responded that the U.S. selling weapons to Taiwan and its ships navigating the Taiwan Strait were provocative.
At the same time as the flights, the U.S. stepped up naval maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific with its allies, challenging Beijing's territorial claims in critical waterways.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told legislators Wednesday that the situation “is the most severe in the 40 years since I’ve enlisted.”
5 things to know about China's record surge of warplanes near Taiwan
China's record number of incursions of warplanes into Taiwan's defense zone over the past four days plays to Beijing's military strengths while sending potent messages both at home and far beyond the self-governed island, Western analysts say. © Taiwan Ministry of Defense/AP The Taiwan Ministry of Defense released this undated file photo of a Chinese J-16 fighter jet when they announced that PLA aircrafts entered their air defense identification zone.
While most agree that war is not imminent, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warned that more is at stake if Beijing makes good on past threats to seize the island by force if necessary.
“If Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system,” she wrote in an impassioned op-ed in Foreign Affairs magazine published Tuesday. “It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.”
China regularly flies military aircraft into Taiwan's “air defense identification zone,” international airspace that Taiwan counts as a buffer in its defense strategy, although previous flights have usually involved a handful of planes at most.
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"If Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system," Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said.China's People's Liberation Army capped off four days of sustained pressure in the region with a record-setting 56 planes flying off the coast of Taiwan Monday. While the flights occurred in international airspace, Taiwanese defense forces fear any escalation.
Perhaps more significant than the number of planes was the constitution of the group, with fighters, bombers and airborne early warning aircraft, said Euan Graham, a defense analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.
“That's the level of sophistication — it looks like a strike package, and that's part of the step up in pressure,” he said. “This is not a couple of fighters coming close and then going straight back after putting one wing across the median; this is a much more purposeful maneuver.”
Controlling Taiwan and its airspace is key to China's military strategy, with the area where the most recent sorties took place also leading to the west Pacific and the South China Sea.
The latest maneuvers bring the total number of flights to more than 815 as of Monday since the Taiwanese government started publicly releasing the numbers a little more than a year ago.
China has been rapidly improving and strengthening its military, and the most recent flights demonstrate a greater level of technical expertise and power, said Chen-Yi Tu, a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taiwan.
Taiwan won't be forced to bow to China, President Tsai says during National Day celebrations
Taiwan will not bow to pressure and nobody can force it to accept the path China has laid out for the self-governing democracy, President Tsai Ing-wen said Sunday as the island celebrated its National Day amid heightened tensions with Beijing. © Chiang Ying-ying/AP Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the presidential office in Taipei, Taiwan, on October 10. During her speech in front of the presidential office in the capital Taipei, Tsai warned that Taiwan is facing the "most complex situation" in the past 72 years, since the end of the Chinese civil war.
It's a marked contrast from 20, 30 years ago, when Chinese forces couldn't refuel in the air, or fly across the water, said Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
“I think China is trying to remind the U.S. and Taiwan that this is not then, that they have options,” she said. “They can do what they want, that they won’t be deterred.”
At the same time, many democracies have been increasingly vocal in their support of Taiwan and have stepped up naval operations in the area.
As China was conducting its most recent flights, 17 ships from six navies — the U.S., Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and New Zealand — including three aircraft carriers and a Japanese helicopter carrier — carried out joint maneuvers off the Japanese island of Okinawa, northeast of Taiwan, meant to show their commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
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"I want to remind all my fellow citizens that we do not have the privilege of letting down our guard," Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, said in her address.During her remarks on Sunday, Tsai said there should be "no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure" from China, Reuters reported.
A few days earlier, the British frigate HMS Richmond transited through the Taiwan Strait, announcing its presence on Twitter and angering China, which condemned the move as a “meaningless display of presence with an insidious intention.”
The international actions are an attempt to counter China's frequent claim that its own actions are in response to American moves, and demonstrate that democracies intend to defend established maritime laws and norms, Graham said.
“When the U.K. sends a ship through the Taiwan Strait for the first time since 2008 and it sailed down the median line, the point that it's making is that they know China knows where that line is,” he said. “In order for the status quo to be meaningful, it has to be upheld and the most emphatic way to do that is to physically demonstrate with a government asset like a warship.”
Australia, which also spoke out against China's recent flights, last month announced a deal with the U.S. and Britain to obtain nuclear-powered submarines, which was seen as a strong statement it planned to play a greater role.
China needs a stronger message to 'tamp down' aggression against Taiwan
Washington muddles along with its policy of strategic ambiguity, unchanged since the Clinton administration.His formulaic message is not commensurate with China's increasingly aggressive actions. Beijing has heard it all before, for decades. What it has never heard - except transiently from George W. Bush and only implicitly from Donald Trump - is that America will defend Taiwan.
And Japan, which has long been cautious with its relations with China, a key trading partner, now considers the country a security threat amid Beijing’s increasingly assertive activity in the regional seas and around the Taiwan Strait. New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said dialogue with China is important but Japan should also team up with like-minded democracies and step up its security alliance with the U.S. and other partners while Tokyo also strengthens its defense capabilities.
“We are seeing a slow emergence of some sort of coalition of democracies in the region that are trying to come together to build some sort of mechanism to respond to Chinese behavior in the region,” said J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, D.C.
Under longstanding policy, the United States provides political and military support for Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to defend it from a Chinese attack.
Still, as the U.S. increases its military activities in the Indo-Pacific region, the Chinese response has been to increase its own, said Yue Gang, a retired Chinese army colonel and Beijing-based military commentator.
“The Biden administration has been increasing military deterrence against China, not only by dispatching many warships and warplanes, but also showcasing its allies,” he said. “One of the possibilities is that the mainland hopes to send a signal it will not be misjudged as weak.”
The Chinese flights into the Taiwanese defense buffer zone have forced Taiwan to scramble its own aircraft and anti-aircraft missile batteries, wearing down their readiness and reducing their capabilities, Yue said.
“Every time a warplane takes off, the engine life is reduced to some extent,” he said.
In addition to keeping Taiwan on edge, the sorties also help the Chinese pilots keep their edge, and could eventually help give them an element of surprise “if the scenario is to eventually use hard power to resolve their unification claim over Taiwan,” Graham said.
“It's hard to know if exercise 39 or exercise 57 is the one that isn't an exercise,” he said.
For the moment, however, most agree that is not the immediate goal.
“It’s more signaling and psychological warfare and a warning to the U.S. to not be so close to Taiwan,” Mastro said.
Rising reported from Bangkok.
Taiwan tensions raise fears of US-China conflict in Asia .
BANGKOK (AP) — After sending a record number of military aircraft to harass Taiwan over China’s National Day holiday, Beijing has toned down the saber rattling but tensions remain high, with the rhetoric and reasoning behind the exercises unchanged. Experts agree a direct conflict is unlikely at the moment, but as the future of self-ruled Taiwan increasingly becomes a powder keg, a mishap or miscalculation could lead to confrontation while Chinese and American ambitions are at odds. China seeks to bring the strategically and symbolically important island back under its control, and the U.S. sees Taiwan in the context of broader challenges from China.“From the U.S.