Taiwan’s defense ministry said 13 Chinese planes entered the southwestern part of the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, followed by 15 on Sunday, prompting Taipei to take protective measures, including a mix of combat Chinese flight observation aircraft.
Although the frequency of such training has increased in recent years, the timing and composition of the latest formations – mostly fighter jets and bombers – appear to have been aimed at sending a message to the new administration in Washington.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of nearly 24 million people located off the southeast coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two countries have been ruled separately for more than seven decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised that Beijing will never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.
“We call on Beijing to end its military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan and instead engage in a meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected officials,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price, adding that US-Taiwan ties are deepening. Washington continues to commit to self-government on the island.
American carrier in the South China Sea
In addition to supporting Taiwan, Price Department spokesman said Saturday that Washington will face other Indo-Pacific friends and allies as China intensifies its military activities in the region.
In a show of solidarity over the weekend, a US Navy strike group entered the South China Sea, the first deployment of one of the 100,000-tonne warships with more than 60 aircraft during the Biden administration.
A U.S. Navy statement said the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorted cruisers and destroyers were in a planned deployment to maintain the freedom of the seas in the South China Sea of 1.3 million square miles, almost all of which China claims for its sovereign territory.
“As two-thirds of world trade travels through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote rules-based rules,” the counteradm said. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, in a statement.
But in late 2020, China said military movements such as Roosevelt’s strike group had fueled tensions.
“Some countries outside the region are coming from afar to strain their military muscles, ignite confrontations and create tensions in the South China Sea, which is the main reason for the ‘militarization’ of the region,” Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Tan Kefei told regular press briefing.
Last year, the U.S. Navy twice sent its aircraft carriers, the world’s largest warships, to the South China Sea twice for double exercises, something it hadn’t done in six years.
Washington also conducts regular freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, most recently in December. These include US warships that sail within 12 nautical miles of coastlines that nations can claim for their territorial waters.
China’s new Coast Guard law
On Friday, Beijing gave another indication of how it can tighten control over the waters it claims in the region by passing a new law that allows its coastguards to fire on foreign vessels.
The law, which takes effect on February 1, also allows the Coast Guard to destroy foreign structures built on China’s claimed reefs and islands, as well as to create exclusion zones to prevent foreign vessels.
“The new Coast Guard law shows China’s clear attitude and determination to defend its sovereignty,” the report said, citing Lu Yaodong, a research fellow at the Institute for Japanese Studies at the Chinese State Academy of Social Sciences.
“Regular patrols near the Diaoyu Islands will be guaranteed by law,” Lu said.
Chinese vessels spent a record amount of time in the waters around the islands last year, condemning Tokyo. Washington has repeatedly stated that the islands are covered by the US-Japan Mutual Defense Agreement, which will oblige the United States to respond to any Chinese action against Japanese ships there.