China, US Flex Military Muscles Near Taiwan Amid Ukraine Tensions

Eva Fu
By Eva Fu
February 26, 2022Asia & Pacific
China, US Flex Military Muscles Near Taiwan Amid Ukraine Tensions
Taiwan's domestically produced corvette class vessels Ta Chiang (L) and the Tuo Chiang pass one another to demonstrate their combat readiness during a drill on the seas off the northern city of Keelung on Jan. 7, 2022. (SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

China is holding military drills in waters south of Taiwan amid the escalating Ukraine crisis as the United States sailed a warship through the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

The military exercise will last three days from Feb. 27 in a 6 nautical mile radius off Hainan Island, which sits at the southernmost tip of China, China’s Maritime Safety Administration announced on Feb. 25 as it warned ships to stay away.

While the province of Hainan is still hundreds of miles southwest of Taiwan, the marine drill has attracted attention in the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Beijing has long viewed the self-ruled island as its breakaway province to be reclaimed by force if necessary. With Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, questions are mounting as to whether China will be emboldened to proceed with a similar step.

The island raised its alert levels since Feb. 24, when Russian forces were confirmed to have pressed across Ukrainian borders. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, while stressing the island’s geopolitical advantages, has ordered its army to be combat-ready 24/7.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s military harassment toward the island, which spiked last year, has continued.

On Feb. 26, eight Chinese military aircraft—six fighter jets and two anti-submarine aircraft—entered Taiwan’s southwest Air Defense Identification Zone, marking the 15th Chinese military incursion this month. They were spotted in the northeast direction of Taiwan’s Pratas Island in the northern part of the South China Sea.

The State Department did not respond to The Epoch Times’ inquiry about China’s scheduled military drill. But on Saturday, a U.S. missile destroyer under the U.S. Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, known as Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson, transited through the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese navy
A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea, on Jan. 2, 2017. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

A 7th Fleet spokesperson described the ship’s passage as a “routine” operation “through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State.”

From the Chinese side, the move was characterized as “provocative.”

The United States is “trying to make some gestures to bolster the spirits of pro-Taiwan independence forces. This is hypocritical and useless,” said senior colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the Chinese army’s Eastern Theater Command, headquartered in China’s eastern-central coastal province Jiangsu.

Washington, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei but is the island’s chief international backer and bound by law to provide sufficient military provisions for the island’s defense.

From The Epoch Times

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