(Citizen Free Press) — China sent two large formations of fighter jets near the autonomous island of Taiwan over the weekend, presenting a major foreign policy challenge to new US President Joe Biden just days after the start of his administration.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said 13 Chinese aircraft entered the southwestern part of the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Saturday, followed by 15 on Sunday, prompting Taipei to take defensive measures, including the deployment of fighter jets to monitor Chinese flights.
According to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, Chinese military aircraft made more than 380 flights to the island’s air defense identification zone last year. The US Federal Aviation Administration defines an ADIZ as “a designated area of airspace over land or water within which a country requires immediate and positive identification, location, and air traffic control of aircraft in the interest of the national security of the country.
While the frequency of such drills has increased in recent years, the timing and composition of the latest formations, mostly fighter jets and bombers, seemed 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, even though the two have been ruled separately for more than seven decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that Beijing will never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.
In a statement on Saturday, the Biden government urged Beijing to stop trying to intimidate Taiwan and pledged support for the democratic government of Taipei.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with the democratically elected representatives of Taiwan,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price, adding that ties between the United States and Taiwan are deepening and Washington remains committed to self-government on the island.
The United States showed a strong commitment to defending Taiwan during the Trump administration, approving the sale of advanced military hardware to Taipei, including F-16 fighter jets, while sending high-level envoys to the island, two moves that angered to Beijing.
In an initial show of support from the Biden administration for the island, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Biden’s inauguration last week. It was the first official invitation of its kind to a representative of the Taipei government since 1979, when Washington established formal diplomatic ties with Beijing. On the same day, Beijing announced sanctions against outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other high-ranking officials under Trump, accusing them of “prejudice and hatred against China.”
An American aircraft carrier in the South China Sea
In addition to backing Taiwan, Price, the State Department spokesman said on Saturday that Washington will also support other Indo-Pacific friends and allies as China steps up its military activities in the region.
In a show of that solidarity, a US Navy carrier strike group entered the South China Sea over the weekend, the first deployment during the Biden administration of one of the 100,000-ton warships. with its contingent of more than 60 aircraft.
A statement from the US Navy indicated that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts, a cruiser and a guided missile destroyer, were on a scheduled deployment to defend the freedom of the waters in the South China Sea, which for the most part it is claimed by China as its sovereign territory.
“With two-thirds of world trade traveling through this important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote rules-based order,” Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo, strike group commander, said in a statement.
But at the end of 2020, China said military movements like that of the Roosevelt strike group inflamed tensions.
“Some countries outside the region come from afar to show off their military muscles, ignite clashes and create tensions in the South China Sea, which is the rationale for the ‘militarization’ of this region,” the Defense Ministry spokesman said. , Colonel Tan. Kefei, at a regular press conference.
Last year, the US Navy sent two of its aircraft carriers, the world’s largest warships, to the South China Sea on two occasions for dual exercises, something it had not done in the previous six years.
Washington also regularly conducts freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, most recently in December. These involve US warships sailing within the 12-nautical-mile limit of coasts that nations can claim as their territorial waters.
China’s new coastguard law
On Friday, Beijing gave another indication of how it can tighten its grip on the waters it claims in the region, passing a new law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels.
The law, which takes effect on February 1, also allows the coast guard to demolish foreign structures built on reefs and islands claimed by China and establish no-go zones to keep foreign ships out.
The law could not only increase the chances of confrontation between China and other claimants in the South China Sea, which include Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, but also in the East China Sea, where China and Japan dispute. sovereignty over a group of islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
On its English-language news website, China’s military specifically referred to the Japanese-controlled islands on Monday when it announced the enactment of the law, with a headline saying it safeguards Beijing’s sovereignty over the uninhabited rock chain, 1,900 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.
“The new coastguard law shows China’s clear attitude and determination to safeguard its sovereignty,” the report said, citing Lu Yaodong, a researcher at the state-affiliated Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“Regular patrols near the Diaoyu Islands will be guaranteed by law,” Lu said.
Chinese ships spent record time in the waters around the islands last year, prompting the condemnation of Tokyo. Washington has repeatedly said that the islands are covered by the mutual defense treaty between the United States and Japan, which would force the United States to respond to any Chinese action against Japanese ships there.
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