ANALYSIS – In the wake of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Communist China (Chicom) launched its largest military drills around the island.
These exercises began on Thursday and will effectively blockade Taiwan until Sunday afternoon.
The big questions are how will President Biden react, and what will be the impact?
The answers so far are not much, and we will see.
China’s live-fire drills are being held in six areas around the island’s coastline between noon on Thursday and the same time on Sunday.
While China has regularly conducted military drills near Taiwan, with the size and tempo growing in recent years, it has never tried to encircle the island in a de facto blockade.
As Politico’s newsletter, China Direct writes:
We now have an unprecedented series of four-day-long, round-the-island live-ammunition exercises featuring advanced warplanes, warships and missiles. The Chinese military designated six closure areas, one of which is merely 12 miles from Taiwan’s southern shipping hub of Kaohsiung. Beijing also warned commercial airliners to avoid wide swaths of airspace around Taiwan, in what amounts to a no-fly zone over major flight routes. Even though China portrays this as a step short of total encirclement, Taiwan’s defense ministry describes it as “a maritime and aerial blockade.” The level of tension takes us back to the mid-1990s, and ushers in a new level of concern for those accustomed to the Beijing-Taipei status quo.
What could go wrong? For now, China is calling it a drill and there’s no indication of imminent aggression against the self-ruling democratic island of 23 million people. But no one takes it lightly. President Xi Jinping in particular needs to appear — if not act — tough prior to the norm-breaking continuation of his term in just a couple of months or so. Tellingly, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman suggested China has a right to “self-defense,” after Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a similar vein, characterized Pelosi’s trip as a “violation of China’s sovereignty.”
What message is China trying to send? China Direct adds:
It’s the speed that matters: The Chinese military aims to show to the world how easy it is for it to cut off Taiwan from the rest of the world — including potential military supply lines from Japan and the U.S.
PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE: The exercises, according to Professor Alessio Patalano of King’s College’s war studies department, are not just designed to showcase the PLA’s expanding capabilities, but there’s also a psychological aspect. “They will seek to strike fear in Taiwan with the threat of a blockade,” he said. “There is certainly in the design and location of the exercise an ambition to psychologically coerce the Taiwanese into thinking that resistance is indeed futile.”
What about America’s response? China Direct continues:
And then there’s the US warship in the region. A naval force led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is in the region, deployed there for Pelosi’s trip. The amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli is also in the area. The more prudence the Americans exhibit, the more likely “it might potentially embolden the hawks within the PRC political and military circles,” Koh said, [Collin Koh, a research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.]
Sadly, Biden’s most noteworthy response to China’s massive temper tantrum has been to postpone America’s latest nuclear missile test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed DOD to postpone the scheduled test flight as a prudent step,” the official said.
The decision was made due to “increased military activity by the People’s Republic of China around Taiwan,” the official said.
“This is the type of thing responsible nations do,” a US official told CNN.
It’s also what cowardly leaders – who don’t know how to restrain belligerent, war-mongering regimes – do.
Can we say, Neville Chamberlain? ADN