Friday, 05 March, 2021

Chinese fighters, bombers test Taiwan's air defense days into Biden presidency

The Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group deployed to the South China Sea over the weekend in a US commitment to freedom of the seas the US Navy said US says China military pressure against Taiwan threatens peace
Deanna Wagner | 25 January, 2021, 20:26

Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, was quoted as saying, "It's great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners".

The Reuters report said that Taiwan's air force responded to the incursion.

While Chinese military officials did not necessarily plan drills with the new USA administration in mind, the timing could have value for Beijing, said Drew Thompson, a former Pentagon official responsible for China and now a research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

China sent 13 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone Saturday, consisting of four Shenyang J-16 fighter jets, eight H-6K bombers and one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, Taiwan's Defense Ministry said.

Antony Blinken, Biden's pick to head the State Department, said Tuesday that there is "a strong and long bipartisan commitment to Taiwan" and that part of that "is making sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself against aggression".

U.S. -China relations are off to a rough start in the Joe Biden era, as tensions over Taiwan hit high gear less than a week after the American president took office.

Lo Chih-Cheng, a senior lawmaker for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party who sits on parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, told Reuters China was trying to deter the new USA government from backing the island.

Taiwan's defense ministry said jet interceptors were ordered to track the flights and radio warnings were issued along with the deployment of air defense missile systems to monitor the activity.

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"We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan's democratically elected representatives", Ned Price, a spokesman for the department, said in the statement.

Taiwan's coastguard said it expelled more than 500 vessels up to November previous year compared to 91 in 2019 and none in 2018.

"We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability", he continued.

Emily Horne, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the US commitment to Taiwan was " rock-solid" after the island's de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, attended Biden's swearing-in on Wednesday.

Since U.S. President Richard Nixon visited Mao Zedong in China in 1972, the two countries have issued three communiques serving as the basis of their relationship - with the handling of Taiwan at the core.

Beijing balks at any official contacts with Taiwan and tries to keep the island diplomatically isolated.

"We're committed to our partnership" with the United States, the ministry account said.

The large number of Chinese aircraft incursions appeared to be an early test for the new Biden administration and its commitment to supporting the island democracy that Beijing considers part of its territory.