Chinese Navy Drills Near Taiwan Following F-16 Sales by US
Beijing is set to perform new military exercises in the East China Sea later this week, as Taiwan pens a deal to buy dozens of advanced F-16V Viper fighters from the US.
The sea east of Zhejiang Province will be closed from Tuesday through Thursday as the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) carries out its third set of military exercises near Taiwan in a month's time.
It's unknown how big the drills will be or which warships will take part, but the Global Times noted it would be a "live-fire drill."
Last week, Washington signed off on a much anticipated sales agreement that will see Taipei armed with F-16V Viper Block 70 aircraft, one of the most advanced iterations of the jet, for $8 billion. It will be the largest weapons sale to the island by the US since 1992.
The move enraged Beijing.
"China urges the US to fully recognise the highly sensitive and harmful nature of the relevant issue, abide by the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués, refrain from selling F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan and stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in an August 18 statement following news the US would approve the deal.
The governments in Taipei and Beijing both adhere to the One-China Policy and expect other countries to do the same. The two forces represent opposite sides of the Chinese Civil War, which the communist Red Army won in 1949 under the direction of Mao Zedong, founding the People's Republic of China. The old Republic of China government survived only on Taiwan, which the Red Army couldn't invade. Each side claims to be the only legitimate government of all of China, decrying the other side as rebels.
Until 1979, the US continued to recognize the Republican government in Taipei, only switching its recognition because of the growing economic power and political prominence of the PRC on the world stage. However, Washington has maintained thinly-veiled contact with Taiwan ever since, and has pledged itself to defending the island's sovereignty, periodically selling Taipei older military equipment so as not to anger Beijing.
The US regularly demonstrates its contempt for the One-China Policy by sailing its warships through the 110-mile wide Taiwan Strait, claiming to be enforcing freedom of navigation. On August 23, the landing transport dock USS Green Bay transited the strait.
The government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen asked Washigton for advanced F-35 stealth aircraft, but even though the US declined that offer, the F-16V isn't exactly a junker - its powerful active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is equaled by only a few fighters in the world, including China's J-20 stealth aircraft.
Tsai's 2016 election introduced an explosive new element to the delicate cross-strait situation, as her Democratic Progressive Party has shown signs of favoring independence instead of the One-China Policy. Beijing has promised war if Taiwan tries to become a separate country. Tsai resigned as party chief in the wake of a stinging electoral defeat in November, in which the Kuomintang, or Chinese nationalists, won big on a platform of closer ties with Beijing.
Adam Ni, a China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told AFP Tuesday the purpose of the upcoming drills was to "better prepare for conflict but also deter ... Taiwan [from] going down the path of independence or, failing that, a US intervention if conflict breaks out between China and Taiwan."
Taiwan staged its own military drills late last month amid previous Chinese exercises, launching dozens of missiles into the Philippine Sea east of the island and simulating repelling an amphibious assault.
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