Sunday, January 17, 2021

Tensions Between US & China Heighten Over Taiwan

US-China tensions seem to be increasing every day and show no signs of easing as both the countries are locked in a high stake battle for control of the South China Sea. The ties between the two nations are already strained after the US accused China of spreading COVID-19 infection. 

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A recent report has once again highlighted the fraught US-China ties after the militaries from Taiwan and the US confirmed that a US naval warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait for the second time in a month, amid heightened tensions between Taiwan and China.

China has always asserted its complete sovereignty over Taiwan and has been enraged by Trump administration’s continued defence and unrelenting support for the island nation.

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Taiwan’s Defence Ministry described the US navy’s patrol as a routine mission without providing further details and added that the US warship traversed in a southerly direction and continued to sail south through the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates the tiny island nation from China.

US Seventh Fleet spokesman, Lieutenant Anthony Junco revealed that USS Barry, a guided-missile destroyer had conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” in accordance with international law adding that it demonstrates US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and that US Navy will continue to operate in air, land and sea anywhere as per international laws.

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Two weeks ago Chinese fighter jets took part in drills close to the island on the same day that the USS Barry also sailed through the strait. Taiwan said on Thursday that a Chinese aircraft carrier group had sailed to its south through the Bashi Channel that sits between Taiwan and the Philippines and was heading east and added that the carrier group earlier this month sailed down Taiwan’s east coast.

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China, in response, maintained that it was on its way to routine exercises at the time in the disputed South China Sea.  In March, the Chinese regime sent fighter jets and surveillance aircraft well inside the halfway mark of the Taiwan Strait and one of its speedboats had rammed into Kinmen islands which is hardly 5 km from Taiwan.

In February when China was locked in a severe battle with coronavirus, locking down its entire city of Wuhan, it was also sending its jet fighters into Taiwanese airspace. All the offensive manoeuvres by Beijing had forced Taiwan’s deputy defence minister to warn China saying, “At the height of the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, if Chinese communist government attempted to make any regional military adventure, they would be condemned by the entire world.

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Taipei’s fears are well justified and its actions well warranted given that China has been sending around 2,000 bomber patrols in the Taiwan Strait, according to Taiwan’s defence minister.

According to The Diplomat, The United States has stationed USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam and USS Ronald Reagan at Yokosuka naval base as a result of increased military activity by China near Taiwan.

According to Reuters, the US has passed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act which requires the US State Department to report to Congress on steps taken to strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic relations.

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It also requires the United States to alter engagements with nations that undermine Taiwan’s security or prosperity. US sale of $25 billion worth of arms to Taiwan has added to the frustration of Chinese.

Currently, Taiwan has diplomatic relations with only 15 governments which are mostly small and developing and the US is worried that China may stave off Taiwan’s few remaining alliances.

In 2018, China’s President Xi Jinping told his forces to promote war preparedness during his tour at the Southern Theater Command in Guangdong province which is responsible for monitoring Taiwan and the South China Sea.

In September in the same year, a Chinese warship came close to colliding with USS Decatur.  A former US commander and a former White House staff member also had spoken about US-China war in the next 10-15 years over the South China Sea.

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