Tensions between the U.S. and China are escalating over the pro-democracy island of Taiwan, with Beijing accusing Washington of engaging in “intimidation and coercion” by sailing American military ships through the Taiwan Strait.
The accusation Thursday by a Chinese Foreign Ministry official came a day after the Biden administration voiced frustration over increasingly aggressive Chinese military moves in airspace and waters around Taiwan, which the communist government in Beijing claims is under Chinese control.
State Department spokesman Ned Price expressed “great concern” on Wednesday at what he described as a Chinese government campaign to “intimidate in the region, including in the context of Taiwan.”
Several news outlets, including The Washington Times, Reuters and others, have noted a recent spike in Chinese fighter jet incursions into airspace controlled by military forces of Taiwan, where officials vow to fight to the end against China attacks.
Mr. Price told reporters Wednesday that the United States “maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people of Taiwan.”
The State Department spokesman separately warned China over other increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where some 200 Chinese vessels have recently amassed around the Whitsun Reef inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone in an apparent attempt to take control of the reef or at least block Philippine ships from accessing it.
Mr. Price told reporters the Biden administration is committed to defending the Philippines if the situation escalates with an attack by China.
“An armed attack against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian countered Thursday by claiming it’s Washington, not Beijing, that would responsible for any escalation, particularly regarding the situation around Taiwan.
“Lately, U.S. warships have frequently sailed to the Taiwan Strait to flex muscles, provoke and stir up trouble, sending gravely wrong signals to ‘Taiwan-independence’ forces and threatening peace and stability across the region,” said Mr. Zhao, asserting “the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”
“Who is actually guilty of intimidation and coercion?” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman asked with a condescending tone.
“Have Chinese warships gone to the Gulf of Mexico to flex muscles?” he asked.
The Pentagon has indicated that U.S. Naval forces are carrying out “routine operations” in the region, with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group having entered the South China Sea on April 4. The USS John S. McCain guided-missile destroyer separately transited the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday in a move apparently aimed at countering an earlier announcement by Beijing that the Chinese military would be carrying out its own exercises around Taiwan.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily — an official Chinese military publication — warned that Chinese forces “conducted whole-process tracking and monitoring” of the John S. McCain as it traversed the Taiwan Strait. The publication cited Chinese Air Force Senior Col. Zhang Chunhui, spokesperson for the Chinese PLA Eastern Theater Command, as saying in a written statement Wednesday that PLA forces are on “high alert” and “ready to respond to all threats and provocations at all times” near Taiwan.
The Associated Press reported this week that many U.S. military officials believe China is likely accelerating its timetable for capturing control of Taiwan, the island democracy that has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic U.S.-China war.
The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup and has become more aggressive with Taiwan and more assertive in sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, the news agency reported.
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