US warship's Taiwan Straits transit slammed, PLA may respond with larger drills: analysts

Global Times
Chen Zhuo
2019-07-25 17:39:24
The amphibious dock landing ships Changbaishan (Hull 989, R) and Wuzhishan (Hull 987, L) attached to a landing ship flotilla with the Navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command steam in formation in waters of the South China Sea during a three-dimensional amphibious landing operation from May 29 to June 3, 2019. Photo:

Chinese official and experts slammed the transit of a US warship Wednesday through the Taiwan Straits, calling it a provocation timed to coincide with the release on the same day of China's new national defense white paper which identified the opposition and containment of "Taiwan independence" as part of the Chinese military's fundamental goal.

The timing could mean the US is sending a high-profile signal to pressure China amid tensions between the two countries, but this will only encourage Taiwan secessionists, worsen the cross-Straits security situation, further damage China-US relations, analysts said while emphasizing that there is zero possibility that China will make any concession when it comes to the Taiwan question.

"The Chinese side has been closely monitoring from start to end the passage by the US warship through the Taiwan Straits. We have raised concerns to the US side," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying at a routine press conference on Thursday.

"The Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive one in China-US relations. We urge the US to observe the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiqués and prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues so as to avoid negative impacts on China-US relations and the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits," Hua said.

The USS Antietam, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, conducted a routine Taiwan Straits transit from Wednesday to Thursday, CNN reported on Wednesday citing a statement by Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy's Seventh Fleet.

This is the sixth time the US has sent warships through the Taiwan Straits this year, but this time it coincided with China's release of its latest national defense white paper China's National Defense in the New Era on Wednesday.

One of the aims of China's national defense is to oppose and contain "Taiwan independence," according to the new white paper.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs, it said.

"If anyone dares to try to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate to go to war to resolutely safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian stressed at the press conference on the white paper on Wednesday.

These formulations were not included in China's last defense white paper published in May 2015. The 2015 white paper only introduced the Taiwan question in the national security situation, calling the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces and their activities the biggest threat to the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Thursday that the US is intentionally provoking China, showing off to people including the Taiwan secessionists that despite the Chinese defense white paper's assertions, the US is still capable of challenging China.

While the timing of the US warship's transit through the Taiwan Straits and the white paper's release might actually be a coincidence, it remains clear that Washington has doubled down support for Taiwan in its strategic game with Beijing, Ni Feng, the deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times.

Publically announcing the warship's passage the same day as the white paper's release clearly shows the US intentions, analysts said. Calling the transit "routine" will minimize the risk of a stronger response from China, but will reinforce the impression that the US is continuing to take a strong stance against China, analysts said.

The US action might further encourage Taiwan secessionists, which will then further destabilize the cross-Straits relations, Li said, noting that the US seems not to care about the overall relations between China and the US.

Ni said that by frequently sending naval vessels through the Taiwan Straits, the US is reneging on its promise to China made when the two countries first established diplomatic relations, shaking the very foundation of China-US relations.

Neither the Taiwan secessionists nor the US will see the outcome they are looking for, as the island of Taiwan is and will always be part of China, analysts said.

Even netizens within the island are getting tired of the US warships' shows, saying that the US is merely "farming for a sense of presence."

"The US is baring its fangs and showing its claws, but there is nothing there, really," reads a Taiwan netizen's comment.

If the time comes when the Chinese mainland is left with no choice but to reunify the island of Taiwan by force, the US will definitely not fight for the island, mainland analysts said.

Returning fire

After the US approved a plan to sell $2.22 billion worth of arms to the island of Taiwan earlier this month, China's Defense Ministry announced a military drill near the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland, which is widely believed to be a response to the US action and a warning to the Taiwan secessionists.

To respond to the latest US warship transit through the Taiwan Straits, PLA drills in this direction could become even larger in scale and complex in organization, analysts suggested.

"The drills could be big, and could include an amphibious landing exercise with the island of Taiwan's terrain and landforms in mind," Li said.

In addition to the Navy's landing ships and amphibious equipment used in regular landing mission drills, rockets and missiles of the Rocket Force, fighter jets and helicopters, as well as electronic warfare installations could be deployed, Li predicted.

It could be a coordinated joint operation exercise, because when the mainland really needs to resolve the Taiwan question by force, it is not possible to use only one military branch, Li noted.

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