China is burning fuel after 82 year old Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the number three person in the U.S. government hierarchy, left Taiwan. Large-scale exercises that the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) began around the island on August 4, just in time for the visit of the American guest, were supposed to end. Yesterday Beijing extended the duration of the manoeuvres by several days. Parts of the PLA continue to fire rockets and artillery shells at vast areas of water off the Taiwanese coast. The Chinese authorities said they now intend to regularly conduct such exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi exhorted the international community to band together to reject U.S. pressure and prevent the U.S. from interfering in the domestic politics of other countries. According to the diplomat, if this is not done immediately, the globe would revert to jungle rules.
Relations between U.S. and China may not return to their previous course and, most likely, will be characterized by growing hostility. Taipei is also kicking the Chinese in the teeth by starting its own exercises at sea and in the air in the south of the island – side by side with Chinese aircraft and ships. Any, even accidental collision can lead to the beginning of a conflict with dire consequences. Beijing is already talking about having the right to restore its sovereignty over Taiwan and military measures. If the U.S. delivers on Biden’s recent pledge to “defend the island”, then war is inevitable.
U.S. view on the issue
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Political Affairs Colin Kahl said on Monday that despite the new tensions, the Pentagon has not changed its mind about the possibility of a Chinese attempt to take control of Taiwan by force and will not decide to take such a step in the next two years.
When questioned during a news conference whether the defence ministry’s view had altered in the context of unprecedented Chinese drills surrounding Taiwan, Kahl answered negative.
Beijing’s goal now, he added, is “to create a new status quo through salami tactics” and to force Taiwan and the international community to recognize Chinese dominance in the waters around the island and in the Taiwan Strait.
The U.S. wants Beijing to know that its forces in the region will continue to operate, fly, and cruise wherever international seas allow. This is likewise true for the Taiwan Strait. This also applies to the Taiwan Strait. “I think you should expect us to continue our operations to defend freedom of navigation” like in the past, across the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere in the area, he said.
Kahl added that while there is no complete data yet, initial information indicates that Chinese military manoeuvres, including missile launches over and around Taiwan, did not radically disrupt trade and the economic situation.
Beijing tried to create a crisis
The U.S. did not see a dramatic reaction from the markets. Kahl thinks it is primarily because although Beijing tried to create a crisis and the U.S. did not take the bait. “So in the international community’s assessment, it did not seem to be an escalating moment,” he added. He also emphasized that Taiwan is one of the most significant economic regions on the planet, including the fact that it produces more than 70% of the world’s semiconductors.
In July, CIA director Bill Burns stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s determination to subjugate Taiwan “should not be underestimated”. He added that the risk of China using force to do this would increase with the years in this decade.
U.S. strike teams in place
US Pacific Command has deployed U.S. warships, including the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, in the South China Sea. Ronald Reagan strike group, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), destroyers USS Higgins (DDG 76), USS Antietam (CG54), and USS Chancellorsville (C.G. 62), are conducting routine patrols in the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea.
In March, Admiral John Aquilino from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told A.P. that China had completed the militarization of at least three of the artificial islands it built in the South China Sea. He said that missile arsenal, aircraft hangars, and radars appeared on the islands and that China deployed anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles, laser equipment and jamming devices in the area. The admiral explained that any military and civilian aircraft that would fly over the disputed waters of the South China Sea would be within reach of Chinese missiles.
China and ASEAN members, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, are entangled in a territorial dispute over the Nansha archipelago or the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has converted at least seven reefs and atolls into artificial islands, as well as erected airstrips and other military infrastructure. The U.S. accuses Beijing of establishing military outposts on the disputed islands, which is a breach of international law.
China considers virtually the entire South China Sea, where there are fish and mineral resources and where trade flows with an annual turnover of trillions of dollars take place, as its territory. Beijing also rejected the conclusions of the U.N. arbitration, which, under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, invalidated the claims of the PRC.