China Says Philippine Sea Drills Were 'Stern Warning' Against US Support for 'Taiwan Independence'
16:39 GMT 25.05.2022 (Updated: 12:43 GMT 19.06.2023)
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted a series of maritime and aerial drills in the seas surrounding Taiwan in recent weeks, including deployment of its largest-ever carrier battle group and a joint bomber patrol with the Russian Air Force.
Beijing has warned that the drills were intended as a “stern warning against the recent collusion activities between the US and the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces.
“Taiwan is a part of China. The troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command have the resolution and capability to thwart any external forces' interference and secessionist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence’, and to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability,” Sr. Col. Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said in a Wednesday statement
Shi added that the US’ behavior was “hypocritical” when compared to its words, and that emboldening “Taiwan independence” forces would lead to a “dangerous situation and bring serious consequences of itself.”
Beijing has long sought to reunite
the autonomous island with the mainland under a “one country, two systems” approach similar to that taken with Hong Kong and Macau, two Chinese cities returned to Beijing in the 1990s after more than a century of European colonial rule. However, it hasn’t ruled out using force to reunite Taiwan, either, and promised that a Taiwanese declaration of independence would mean war.
The PLA statement comes after US President Joe Biden made another statement earlier this week that bucked Washington’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan.
While in Tokyo as part of a tour of East Asian allies, Biden was asked if the US would defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an attack from the Chinese mainland.
“Yes,” Biden replied. “That’s the commitment we made.”
Playing the ‘Taiwan Card’
The US official position since 1979
has been that there is only one China, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and that Taiwan is a province of it. The island is governed by the remnants of the Republic of China, the government that ruled all of China between 1912 and 1949, when the communists won the civil war and founded the PRC in Beijing.
Despite its switch, the US has kept informal relations with Taiwan and continued to funnel them support, including advanced weapons. This has accelerated since 2016, when pro-independence President Tsai Ing-Wen took office in Taipei, and the US began a strategic reorientation from waging the War on Terror to preparing for “great power competition” with Russia and China. It reached fever pitch after Russia’s special operation in Ukraine began in February, and US leaders claimed China
was preparing to reunite Taiwan with the mainland by force of arms.
In separate remarks to the press on Wednesday, the Chinese Defense Ministry denounced
“official exchanges and military ties in any form between the United States and China's Taiwan region.”
“Seeking 'Taiwan independence’ leads nowhere but to a dead end, and so does supporting ‘Taiwan independence’," said ministry spokesperson Sr. Col. Tan Kefei, who added that “the US side has intensified its efforts to play the ‘Taiwan card’ with the attempt to use it to contain China, which will inevitably put the situation in jeopardy.”
Following Biden’s slip of the tongue, US defense leaders rushed to unring the bell, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying that
“our One China policy has not changed.”
Great Power Competition
Still, Chinese anxieties run high, with one US delegation after another visiting Taiwan, the Pentagon pressuring Taipei to buy more weapons for guerrilla-style war, and the US State Department editing its website to remove or downplay mentions of the One-China policy.
US military drills in the region have also stepped up, including joint operations between Japanese warships and the carrier battle group of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Sea of Japan, Philippine Sea, and South China Sea.
China responded with its own drills, sending the aircraft carrier Liaoning
and seven other warships into the Philippine Sea last month for drills the PLA described as “more intense”
than before. Then earlier this week, two Chinese H-6 bombers conducted a joint patrol
across the waterway with two Russian Tu-95 bombers and a fighter escort - their fourth such joint patrol in the region since 2019.