China Sends Warplanes Over Taiwan as US Envoy Visits
(Source: Voice of America News; issued Sept 20, 2020)
This is one of the clearest photographs made public so far of the latest Chinese bomber, the H-6K, carrying four YJ-12 anti-ship missiles. It is one of the 18 Chinese aircraft that flew over the Taiwan Strait just as a senior American diplomat held meetings in Taiwan. (RoCAF photo)
China sent almost 20 warplanes into Taiwan's airspace in an unusually large show of force as a response to a senior U.S. official's visit to the self-governing island.

Eighteen Chinese military aircraft, including two H-6 strategic bombers and fighter jets, crossed the so-called median line on Friday morning, according to a statement from Taiwan's defense ministry: "The military scrambled fighters and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor the activities."

Keith Krach, U.S. undersecretary for economic affairs, arrived in Taiwan on Thursday to attend a memorial service for former President Lee Teng-hui. He is the highest-level official from the U.S. State Department to visit Taipei in decades.

Beijing condemned the visit, vowing "China will make necessary responses in accordance with the development of the situation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday.

China also sent military aircraft across the median line when U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited Taipei last month. However, previous crossings into Taiwanese airspace had not involved so many warplanes approaching from multiple directions at once.

A report by Taiwan's defense ministry showed a map of the flight paths of Chinese warplanes crossing the Taiwan Strait midline, and a picture of missiles being loaded onto an H-6 bomber.

"PLA Friday drills not warning, but rehearsal for Taiwan takeover," a headline by China-backed newspaper Global Times said Friday. "In fact, the Friday exercise is a landmark in the struggle across the Taiwan Straits."

Michael Hunzeker, a professor at George Mason University's School of Policy and Government, said it is likely that Beijing is also trying to convince Washington that these kinds of high-profile visits aren't risk free. By conducting such provocative military exercises, "there's always the chance for an accident or a collision that could spark a crisis that both sides would find hard to control," Hunzeker told VOA in an email.

US-China relations

Krach’s visit comes as U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in decades. Washington this week further angered China by announcing more arms sales to Taiwan. The planned trade deal would involve as many as seven major weapons systems, including drones, sea mines and missiles able to strike targets deep inside Chinese territory.

In recent months, prominent American foreign policy experts have been calling for an end to strategic ambiguity, a policy shift that most would have considered outlandish or extreme not so long ago.

On Thursday, a congressman from Wisconsin, Tom Tiffany, introduced legislation calling for the U.S. to resume formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and end the "one China policy," a cornerstone of U.S.-China relations for more than 40 years.

"The nature of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is clearly shifting," said Hunzeker, a Marine Corps veteran. While it is unlikely these recent developments will lead Xi Jinping to authorize an attack on Taiwan in the immediate future, "we cannot dismiss the risk of miscalculation or accidental escalation entirely," Hunzeker said.

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Chinese Military Conducts Exercise Near Taiwan Strait: Spokesperson
(Source: Xinhua; issued September 18, 2020)
BEIJING --- A Chinese military spokesperson on Friday announced a real-combat military exercise of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) near the Taiwan Strait.

Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, said it is a necessary move aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Reiterating that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, Ren said the Taiwan question is purely China's internal affairs and allows no outside interference.

The United States and the Democratic Progressive Party authority in Taiwan have recently intensified their collusion, often creating troubles, Ren said.

"Those who play with fire will get burnt," Ren said.

The PLA has the firm will, abundant confidence, and enough capabilities to thwart any interference by foreign forces or "Taiwan independence" activities, Ren added.

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PLA Conducts Combat-Ready Patrols and Exercises in Taiwan Straits
(Source: China Military Online; issued Sept 18, 2020)
NANJING --- Recently, the naval and air forces assigned to the Eastern Theater Command (ETC) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted the combat-ready patrols and joint air-sea exercises in the Taiwan Straits to test the joint operations capability of multiservices and arms, said Air Force Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhui, spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, in a written statement on Friday morning.

Zhang said that the relevant moves are necessary measures to deal with the current situation across the Taiwan Straits and will help enhance the capability of troops under the PLA Eastern Theater Command to safeguard the national unity, territorial sovereignty and security.

The PLA ETC troops will resolutely perform their duties and missions, and have the confidence and determination to thwart any attempt by any person or force to carry out "Taiwan independence" separatist activities in any form, Zhang stressed in the statement.

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