Flashpoints in Asia

Flashpoints in Asia

Signs of a move to war between the US and China?


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which U.S. military sales to the island were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing.


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s state-run media has announced that the autocratic country has fired a Long March rocket “over the skies of Taiwan Island, China.”

According to a post uploaded to the Weibo page China航天 (China Aerospace) on Monday (Sept. 14), China planned to hold its second launch at sea at approximately 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday (Sept. 15). It stated that a Long March-11 HY2 would blast off from the Yellow Sea carrying nine Jilin-1 Gaofen-03 series remote sensing satellites into a 535-kilometer Sun-synchronous orbit.

The post stated that the rocket would use the “one arrow carries nine stars” method as the rocket “flies over the skies of Taiwan Island, China.” The announcement also included a map of the rocket’s trajectory, showing it launching from a position in the Yellow Sea and flying south directly over the heart of Taiwan proper before heading over the Bashi Channel, past the Philippines, over the South China Sea, and over the Malaysian state of Sabah, Indonesia’s Kalimantan and East Java.


Beijing has reacted furiously to the US sending a senior diplomat to visit self-ruled Taiwan, which it sees as its territory, warning it will make a “necessary response”.

US undersecretary of state Keith Krach arrived in Taipei on Thursday afternoon and is the most senior State Department official to visit the island in 41 years. Beijing said the visit violated the US one-China policy and the “three communiques” that form the basis of US-China ties.

Adding to Beijing’s anger was a meeting the previous day between the US ambassador to the United Nations and Taiwan’s top envoy in New York.

Accompanied by Robert Destro, assistant secretary of state, and a small group of other officials, Krach arrived at Taipei’s military airport on a civilian plane rather than a US government aircraft as Alex Azar did a month ago. The visit by Azar, the health and human services secretary, also prompted a strong protest from Beijing.

Krach, the undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment, will attend a memorial service for former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui – known as the island’s “father of democracy” – on Saturday. He is also expected to meet President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier Su Tseng-chang and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Friday, according to the island’s foreign ministry.

The American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy in the absence of formal ties, confirmed Krach would attend the service. “The United States honours President Lee’s legacy by continuing our strong bonds with Taiwan and its vibrant democracy through shared political and economic values,” the AIT said in a statement.

Taiwanese media had reported that Krach would visit the island to lead the Washington team in a new US-Taiwan economic dialogue that was announced after Tsai agreed to lift a ban on American pork and beef. But there was no mention of trade talks in the AIT statement. And Foreign Minister Wu on Thursday said only that Krach would exchange views with senior Taiwanese economic officials and business leaders on what should be included in the dialogue.

Beijing called the trip provocative and threatened to retaliate.

The Chinese side resolutely opposes any form of US-Taiwan official exchanges and this has remained our clear position,” mainland foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday.

He said in sending Krach to Taiwan, the US had defied the one-China policy and the “three communiques” agreed by the two sides.

The move has not only encouraged the separatist forces on the island, but also damaged Sino-US relations and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Wang said. “China will make a necessary response in accordance with the development of the situation.”

Relations between Beijing and Washington have worsened over Taiwan, but also over the coronavirus pandemic, trade, human rights, the South China Sea and a host of other issues.

US ties with Taiwan have meanwhile been warming, and a New York lunch meeting a day before Krach’s visit is likely to have further enraged Beijing.

America’s ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft called her meeting with Taiwanese envoy James Lee “historic” and a further step in Washington’s campaign to strengthen relations with the island.

I’m looking to do the right thing by my president, and I feel that he has sought to strengthen and deepen this bilateral relationship with Taiwan and I want to continue that on behalf of the administration,” she told Associated Press.

A US plan to sell as many as seven major weapons systems – including mines, cruise missiles and drones – to Taiwan, reported by Reuters on Wednesday, is expected to add to the tensions.

Albert Chiu Shih-yi, a political science professor at Tunghai University in Taichung, said Krach’s visit would be “more symbolic than having any practical substance”.

But combined with the New York meeting and the new arms sales, it could add insult to injury for Beijing at the height of US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, he said.

This could backfire,” Chiu said, adding that Taipei should tread carefully to avoid inflaming the situation.

Tensions are already running high. The night before Krach’s visit, two People’s Liberation Army warplanes approached Taiwan in yet another incursion signalling growing mainland hostility towards the island.

The PLA Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft briefly entered the southwest of the island’s air defence identification zone on Wednesday night and were warned off by Taiwan’s air force, the island’s defence ministry said on Thursday.

Last week, multiple fighter jets approached the same area in what Tsai called a serious provocation that would escalate cross-strait tensions and affect regional peace and stability.


From the CCP organ

According to media reports from the island of Taiwan, US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach will arrive on the island on Thursday and host the “US-Taiwan Economic and Commercial Dialogue.” Since US undersecretary of state is different from deputy officials from other US government departments, Krach’s tour is considered by all parties on the island as more sensitive. They think Krach’s visit is the latest manifestation of an upgrade in official relations between the US and the island of Taiwan. 

On Wednesday, Reuters reported the US is pushing a surge in arms sales to the island of Taiwan – Washington plans to sell “seven weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones” at once.

The US and the island of Taiwan continue to adopt the “salami tactics” to expand the space for their ties, increasing US arms sales to the island, and attempting to force the Chinese mainland to swallow such a trend. They keep throwing stones into the water of the Taiwan Straits. But once they go too far, the stones may become torpedoes, increasing the uncertainties in the entire region, as well as the risks of drastic changes in the Taiwan Straits.

A strategic game of the century between China and the US is being shaped. This is a reality every country and every force in the Asia-Pacific region have to face. Among all regional forces, the Taiwan authorities are the most stupid. Smart ones would go after profit and avoid harm, seeking to butter their bread on both sides in the China-US game. But the Taiwan authorities are destroying their strategic maneuvering ability by completely siding with the US, turning itself into a pawn and a punching bag of the US, bearing the growing risk of an outbreak of a military conflict in the Taiwan Straits. 

The Taiwan authorities often brag about “freedom and democracy” in the island, which are self-comforting empty slogans. The Taiwan authorities have no politically reliable strategic plans. They have no idea what Taiwan’s future will be like, and cannot predict what strategic resources Taiwan’s “freedom and democracy” could bring to the island to confront the mainland. 

Could Taiwan become a sovereign state? Such a goal is as illusory as Taiwan could one day drift to the side of the US. The Taiwan authorities are clear that the best-case scenario is to maintain the status quo. Their de-Sinicization campaigns in the island and pursuit of US support are self-entertaining tricks that serve their ambitions. But from a historical point of view, those are nothing but bubbles.

The authorities of Democratic Progressive Party throwing themselves into the lap of the US will lead to a deformed political mentality and security value within the island, narrowing the path the island can take. No surrounding countries and regions will take US protection as a lifeline as much as the island of Taiwan does, nor will they act beyond their abilities to engage in a confrontation with the Chinese mainland. Taiwan will become an exception in the region. It will be anxious for gains and losses in the long run, and plagued by imaginary fears. 

Fully relying on the US will make the island of Taiwan subject to the willful exploitation of the US. The Tsai Ing-wen authorities lifted import restrictions on US pork and beef as a reward for the visit of US health and human services secretary Alex Azar. Many people wonder how Taiwan will be taken advantage of from Krach’s trip. US is increasing its arms sale to Taiwan, it that a part of the deal? Once the People’s Liberation Army dispatches troops to reunify the island of Taiwan, the military equipment from the US will be nothing but decorations. The arms sales to Taiwan are a mechanism for Washington to blackmail the island. 

International law clearly states that Taiwan is not a country. The US and the island of Taiwan are attempting to upgrade their official ties, and the island is trying to receive greater “country-level treatment” from the US. This constitutes the biggest change to the status quo in the Taiwan Straits, and a continuing source of tensions in the region. The further the US and Taiwan island go in this direction, the more likely the situation in the Taiwan Straits will spiral out of control. Taiwan will suffer the most. Promoting relations with the US is nothing but a way to quench its thirst by drinking poison.

The Taiwan authorities are putting the security and well-being of people on the island in jeopardy. They are leading the island into a blind alley. An increasing number of people are worried that the Taiwan Straits will be the most likely powder keg in the China-US competition. People on the island will be plunged into misery. If that day comes, Taiwan authorities will be an unforgivable sinner for both the island and the rest of China.


The US provided “strong and unambiguous support” to India during its current border crisis with China, which is engaged in increasingly aggressive behaviour throughout the Indo-Pacific even during the coronavirus pandemic, a senior White House official said on Thursday. From a bilateral perspective China’s recent actions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India has further reinforced the importance of the US-India strategic partnership, Lisa Curtis, the deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, said in a virtual panel discussion organised by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank.

Whether it was cutting off Vietnam’s access to its fishing waters, undermining Hong Kong self-rule, deploying military submarines to threaten Japan or contesting Indian territorial sovereignty along the LAC, Beijing has engaged in increasingly aggressive behaviour throughout the Indo-Pacific, even as the global community has grappled with coronavirus pandemic,” Curtis said.

The crisis has strengthened America’s resolve to work towards building its relationship with India as a bulwark against Chinese aggression, she said during the discussion on research scholar Darshana Baruah’s recently released paper, “India in the Indo-Pacific: New Delhi’s Theater of Opportunity”.


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