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Is China’s Threat Just a Bluff?
The FCOs official line is directed at America, which calls the Taiwan Strait an international body of water and frequently infuriates its own country when it sends warships through. China has called on the United States to refrain from sailing naval vessels across the Taiwan Strait, saying Beijing would take additional action after visiting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taipei. China has also been lashing out at reports of American politicians visiting Taiwan. China believes that American official’s visits to Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by China, have sent promising messages to the Taiwanese pro-independence camp. The latest such trip, by a group of six American lawmakers on a two-day visit to Taiwan last month, has drawn Chinese ire.
China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi going to Taiwan, which it claims as its own, and the U.S. said on Monday that it would not be scared off by Chinese saber-rattling. Taiwan’s defense ministry reiterated its opposition to a Pelosi visit. China’s ambassador in Washington, Qin Gang, said on Tuesday the PRC views a transit route into Taiwan as an American escalation and an attempt to shore up Taipei’s breakaway government. China warned of and monitored the transit of American naval vessels through Taiwan’s Strait Tuesday, the country’s military said on Wednesday. SHANGHAI/TAIPEI, May 11 (Reuters) – China’s military said Wednesday that it had monitored and warned about a U.S. naval ship passing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a mission which came shortly after China held exercises near the Chinese island.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy sent a destroyer sailing near China-controlled islands in the South China Sea. Taipei Chinese and American warships passed each other in Taiwan’s Strait in tension on Friday, shortly before Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Joe Biden that relations could be damaged if the island’s status is not appropriately handled. Chinese and U.S. warships passed through the strait into Taiwan, which is in China’s crosshairs, hours ahead of the highly anticipated, nearly two-hour telephone conversation between the two presidents over the Ukraine crisis and other topics. About ten Chinese and Taiwanese naval vessels were sailing through the Taiwan Strait nearby, according to one person briefed on the situation. Several Chinese vessels crossed the median line, an informal buffer separating the two sides. Washington and its allies responded by conducting what is known as freedom-of-navigation patrols in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.
This narrow strip of water divides the Chinese mainland from its small, self-governing islands. A U.S. Navy ship crossed the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, three days after two consecutive freedom-of-navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea that has drawn furious Chinese protests. Taiwan’s claimed eight Chinese aircraft — six fighters and two anti-submarine aircraft — flew in its ADIZ Saturday, directly north-east of the Pratas Island, controlled by Taiwan, at the top edge of the South China Sea.
The island Defense Ministry said the multiple Chinese warships, aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles simulated attacks against Taiwan and its Navy. Taiwan scrambled its air force after 29 Chinese warplanes entered its air defense zone on June 21. In May, it said that a Chinese assault helicopter had crossed over the Strait Median, marking the first time that Chinese helicopters had crossed that informal military boundary since 2020. Late on Tuesday, the Taiwan defense ministry said that a Chinese WZ-10 assault helicopter had briefly crossed the Taiwanese government’s sensitive mid-line, which the informal boundary fighters from both sides generally avoid crossing.
The Chinese air force, however, has done it from time to time. China’s two aircraft carriers are operating around the islands but have reportedly yet to participate in this training. The Chinese military said the joint Navy-Air Force activities around Taiwan’s northern, southern-western, and eastern areas focused on land-attack and sea-attack capabilities. This time, the exercises below were near Taiwan, which has probably seen significant growth for the Beijing Navy over the past quarter century.
China has never flown a jet or fired missiles into Taiwan’s territorial waters this is most likely to happen at the following exercises, said Bonnie Glaser, a South Asian analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the US. Taiwanese officials sound increasingly nervous about the activities, which the defense ministry said on Wednesday amount to a virtual blockade of the Taiwanese islands. Even before Pelosi’s visit, Chinese officials had been making a case to their American counterparts that Taiwan’s Strait should not be considered international waters, raising the prospect of Chinese naval forces trying to block American warships or aircraft passing through the Strait. The Biden administration said after her trip, VSHina responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit by conducting multiple military exercises on the island, including potentially firing ballistic missiles over Taipei.
The last time the Chinese carrier, the Shandong, passed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait was in December 2020 a day after a U.S. naval ship made the same crossing. Their nation views Western powers crossing the border as expressing solidarity with Taiwan, which China claims as its territory. According to data from Bloomberg, the navy has made about nine trips per year across the Taiwan Strait over the past decade, far short of the 100 visits the Chinese ambassador to Washington says the United States makes each year.
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