Citing unnamed Chinese sources, the Japan Times reports the drill will involve landing ships, hovercraft and helicopters, while the carrier Shandong has been deployed in Hainan since December last year. The exercise is designed to simulate a navy and marines attack on the Taiwan-held Pratas, a strategically important islet that sits astride China’s military egress from Hainan to the Pacific Ocean.
According to Reuters, Taiwan in April announced plans to buy arms from France to upgrade its fleet of six French-made La Fayette-class frigates. The U.S. Naval Institute reports a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer made a transit through the Taiwan Strait to warn Beijing’s leadership against taking aggressive action in the region.
The Japan Times reports U.S. electronic warfare aircraft may have passed the strait 14 times in April alone.
According to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency, a Chinese Y-8 aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone before being headed off by fighter jets on April 8. This is the seventh time Chinese military planes flew near Taiwan’s airspace this year.
Last week, the globalist Council on Foreign Relations published a report that said a military confrontation between the U.S. and China in the South China Sea was “likely” sometime in the next 18 months if “their relationship continues to deteriorate.” While the report focused largely on trade and coronavirus pandemic recriminations, Taiwan and Hong Kong also play significantly into the metrics behind the CFR calculations.
The report states, in part:
“Since 2009, China has advanced its territorial claims in this region through a variety of tactics—such as reclaiming land, militarizing islands it controls, and using legal arguments and diplomatic influence—without triggering a serious confrontation with the United States or causing a regional backlash. Most recently, China announced the creation of two new municipal districts that govern the Paracel and Spratly Islands, an attempt to strengthen its claims in the South China Sea by projecting an image of administrative control. It would be wrong to assume that China is satisfied with the gains it has made or that it would refrain from using more aggressive tactics in the future. Plausible changes to China’s domestic situation or to the international environment could create incentives for China’s leadership to adopt a more provocative strategy in the South China Sea that would increase the risk of a military confrontation.
“The United States has a strong interest in preventing China from asserting control over the South China Sea. Maintaining free and open access to this waterway is not only important for economic reasons, but also to uphold the global norm of freedom of navigation. The United States is also at risk of being drawn into a military conflict with China in this region as a result of U.S. defense treaty obligations to at least one of the claimants to the contested territory, the Philippines. China’s ability to control this waterway would be a significant step toward displacing the United States from the Indo-Pacific region, expanding its economic influence, and generally reordering the region in its favor. Preventing China from doing so is the central objective of the U.S. National Security Strategy and the reason the Indo-Pacific is the U.S. military’s main theater of operations. For these reasons, the United States should seek ways to prevent Chinese expansion, ideally while avoiding a dangerous confrontation and being prepared to deftly manage any crises should they arise.”
Click here to read the entire CFR report: https://tinyurl.com/y833mnlg
Tensions were ratcheted further over the weekend after Taiwan said it will provide the people of Hong Kong with “necessary assistance.” President Tsai Ing-wen made the declaration after a resurgence in protests in the Chinese ruled territory against newly proposed national security legislation from Beijing.
Taiwan has become a refuge for a small but growing number of pro-democracy protesters fleeing Hong Kong, which has been convulsed since last year by protests.
Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of people who rallied on Sunday to protest against Beijing’s plan to impose national security laws on the city.
Writing on her Facebook page late on Sunday, Tsai said the proposed legislation was a serious threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms and judicial independence.
Bullets and repression are not the way to deal with the aspirations of Hong Kong’s people for freedom and democracy, she added.
“In face of the changing situation, the international community has proactively stretched out a helping hand to Hong Kong’s people,” Tsai wrote.
Taiwan will “even more proactively perfect and forge ahead with relevant support work, and provide Hong Kong’s people with necessary assistance”, she wrote.
Taiwan has no law on refugees that could be applied to Hong Kong protesters who seek asylum on the island. Its laws do promise, though, to help Hong Kong citizens whose safety and liberty are threatened for political reasons.
The Hong Kong protests have won widespread sympathy in Taiwan, and the support for the protesters by Tsai and her administration have worsened already poor ties between Taipei and Beijing.
China has accused supporters of Taiwan independence of colluding with the protesters.
China believes Tsai to be a “separatist” bent on declaring the island’s formal independence. Tsai says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name.
(Reuters contributed to this report)
(Photo Credit: Xinhua)
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