Exclusive: Satellite images reveal show of force by Chinese navy in South China Sea


Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018 shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018 shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

James Pearson, Greg Torode March 27, 2018

HANOI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Dozens of Chinese naval vessels are exercising this week with an aircraft carrier in a large show of force off Hainan island in the South China Sea, satellite images obtained by Reuters show.

The images, provided by Planet Labs Inc, confirm a Chinese carrier group has entered the vital trade waterway as part of what the Chinese navy earlier described as combat drills that were part of routine annual exercises.

The Liaoning carrier group last week traversed the Taiwan Strait, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry.

The photos, taken on Monday, show what appear to be at least 40 ships and submarines flanking the carrier Liaoning in what some analysts described as an unusually large display of the Chinese military’s growing naval might.

Sailing in a line formation more suited to visual propaganda than hard military maneuvers, the flotilla was headed by what appeared to be submarines, with aircraft above.

Jeffrey Lewis, a security expert at the California-based based Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies, said the images showed the first confirmation that the carrier was joining the drills.

“It’s an incredible picture,” he said. “That’s the big news to me. Confirmation that, yes, the carrier participated in the exercise.”

While the Liaoning has previously entered the South China Sea as part of drills in uncontested training grounds south of Hainan, its annual exercises are closely watched by regional and international powers eyeing Beijing’s growing military might.

It is unclear where the flotilla was headed, or how long operations will last. China’s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, described the deployment as unusual for its size and scope.

“Judging by the images, it does seem they are keen to show that elements of the South Sea Fleet are able to routinely join up with the carrier strike group from Dalian in the north,” he said.

“It does seem they want to show inter-fleet interoperability – something the (Chinese) navy has been quietly working on for some time.”

Chinese naval and coast guard forces have expanded rapidly in recent years and now patrol the vast swathes of the South China Sea, but little is known about their combat readiness and co-ordination.

Koh said as well as the destroyers, frigates and submarines that would ordinarily support a carrier, the flotilla appeared to include a large oiler for re-supply as well as smaller corvettes and possibly fast attack catamarans.

“While it highlights an extensive ability to deploy, we are still left to guess at the PLAN’s combat readiness,” Koh said.

As well as Vietnam, China’s claims in the South China Sea are disputed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei while Taiwan also has claims.

The exercises come amid fresh signs of tension in the resource-rich waterway, with Vietnam recently halting oil exploration off its coast by Spanish firm Repsol under pressure from Beijing.

Beijing also objected to a so-called freedom of navigation patrol by a U.S. warship last week close to one of its artificial islands in the Spratlys archipelago further south.

Reporting By Greg Torode and James Pearson, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Satellite images reveal show of force by Chinese navy in South China Sea”

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China should prepare for military action over Taiwan: Chinese paper


Ben Blanchard March 22, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China should prepare for military action over self-ruled Taiwan and pressure Washington over cooperation on North Korea after the United States passed a law to boost ties with Taiwan, a widely read Chinese state-run newspaper said on Thursday.

Beijing was infuriated when U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation last week that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

Beijing has also been upset by Trump’s threats to impose trade restrictions on China over its huge trade surplus with the United States.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong said in Taipei on Wednesday the United States’ commitment to Taiwan has never been stronger.

China claims Taiwan as its own and considers the self-ruled island a wayward province, which Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday would face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at separatism.

The Global Times said in an editorial China had to “strike back” against the U.S. law, for example by pressuring the United States in other areas of bilateral cooperation, like over North Korea and Iran.

“The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits. It needs to make clear that escalation of U.S.-Taiwan official exchanges will bring serious consequences to Taiwan,” said the paper, which is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.

“This newspaper has suggested that the mainland can send military planes and warships across the Taiwan Straits middle line. This can be implemented gradually depending on the cross-Straits situation,” it said.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. Underlining that threat, Taiwan sent ships and an aircraft on Wednesday to shadow a Chinese aircraft carrier group through the narrow Taiwan Strait, its defence ministry said.

Responding to requests for comment on the Global Times article and the carrier movement, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said: “We oppose unilateral actions by either side to alter the status quo across the Strait.”

“The United States has a deep and abiding interest in cross-Strait peace and stability,” Justin Higgins added. “We welcome steps by both sides of the Taiwan Strait to reduce tensions and improve cross-Strait relations.”

Underscoring China’s concerns, Taiwan’s government and the de facto U.S. embassy on the island said a second senior U.S. official would be visiting Taiwan this week, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing Ian Steff.

In Washington on Wednesday, the mayor of the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, met with Susan Thornton, the U.S. State Department’s senior diplomat for East Asia, Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said.

Chen is a key ally of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, and a fellow member of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated China’s opposition to official U.S.-Taiwan contacts, urging people to reread Xi’s comments from earlier in the week.

“The Chinese people share a common belief that it is never allowed, and it is absolutely impossible, to separate any inch of our great country’s territory from China,” Hua said, quoting Xi.

China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since Tsai’s 2016 election.

China suspects she wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Twinnie Siu in TAIPEI and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and James Dalgleish

Source: Reuters “China should prepare for military action over Taiwan: Chinese paper”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China sends carrier through Taiwan Strait after Xi warning: report


FILE PHOTO: China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning departs Hong Kong, China, July 11, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Reuters Staff March 21, 2018

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has sent its sole operational aircraft carrier the Liaoning through the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates China from the self-ruled island, Taiwan’s defense minister said on Wednesday, according to local media.

The move comes on the heels of a warning from Chinese President Xi Jinping that Taiwan would face the “punishment of history” for any attempt at separatism. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory and considers it a wayward province.

Speaking at Taiwan’s parliament, Defence Minister Yen Teh-fa said the Liaoning entered the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The ministry is keeping a close watch on its progress, the report cited Yen as saying.

China’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January, the Liaoning sailed twice through the Taiwan Strait, in what China said was part of routine drills.

Taiwan says China has ramped up military exercises around the island in the past year or so. The island is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.

China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Monday expressed anger at comments by Taiwan Premier William Lai that Taiwan is a sovereign independent country, saying it was a “serious provocation” and that Taiwan was not and could never be a country.

China has also been infuriated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing into law last week legislation that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts, and vice versa.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Wong is in Taiwan this week, where he is due to speak at a business event in Taipei later on Wednesday with Tsai.

Reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Twinnie Siu; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Source: Reuters “China sends carrier through Taiwan Strait after Xi warning: report”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China says resolutely opposed to new U.S. law on ties with Taiwan


Reuters Staff March 17, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday expressed its “resolute opposition” after U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

The bill, which is non-binding, would have gone into effect on Saturday morning, even if Trump had not signed it.

The move adds to strains between the two countries over trade, as Trump has enacted tariffs and called for China to reduce its huge trade imbalance with the United States, even while Washington has leaned on Beijing to help resolve tensions with North Korea.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with the United States, saying the law sent a “seriously wrong signal” to the forces of Taiwan independence.

“We urge the U.S. side to correct its mistake, stop official exchanges between U.S. and Taiwan officials and substantively raising relations, and prudently and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue to avoid causing serious harm to Sino-U.S. ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.”

China considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan to be a wayward province ineligible for state-to-state relations.

China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the election of President Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, in 2016.

It suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, which would cross a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though Tsai has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

Taiwan’s government has welcomed the new U.S. legislation, saying it looks forward to continuing to deepen its relationship with Washington.

Taiwan’s presidential office said in a statement earlier on Saturday that the United States was Taiwan’s most important ally and thanked the country for its steadfast support.

The United States does not have formal ties with Taiwan but is required by law to help it with self-defense and is the island’s primary source of weapons.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to the Communists.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher in TAIPEI; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Hugh Lawson

Source: Reuters “China says resolutely opposed to new U.S. law on ties with Taiwan”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


U.S. reinforces its relationship with Taiwan as part of a pushback on Beijing’s influence


Lucas Niewenhuis February 22, 2018

Earlier this week, it was reported that the U.S. is seriously pursuing a deepened security and economic partnership with Australia, Japan, and India in order to counter Beijing’s influence in the Asia-Pacific, or “Indo-Pacific,” region.

It’s increasingly clear that part of the new U.S. strategy involves reinforcing, if not going so far as to officially deepen, U.S.-Taiwan relations. Here are the signs:

  • A 19-member congressional delegation is visiting Taiwan from the U.S. to express its “love for Taipei,” the Taipei Times reports. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with the delegation and thanked the Americans “for all they have done for Taiwan,” according to Taiwan News.
  • Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the second-ranking member of his party on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, led the delegation. The New York Times received (paywall) a statement from the senator:

“With China becoming more aggressive and intent on expanding its influence globally, the United States-Taiwan security relationship is now more important than ever… By ensuring they have the ability to defend themselves, Taiwan will continue to be an important part of promoting regional stability.”

  • In January, the House of Representatives in the U.S. passed a bill called the “Taiwan Travel Act,” which if it were to become law would “pave the way for high-level Taiwanese officials to visit the United States and meet U.S. officials, including those from the state and defense departments,” the South China Morning Post reports.
  • An arms sale forum between the U.S. and Taiwan is set to be held in Taiwan, rather than America, for the first time this May, according to the SCMP. Initially, the forum had been identified as the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, which is held annually in the U.S., but organizers clarified that this forum is separate and not equivalent.
  • The American Institute in Taiwan, an organization that coordinates contact between U.S. and Taiwan government representatives, is set to upgrade its facilities in Taipei in June. The New York Times comments that “the unanswered question is how senior an American official might attend” the groundbreaking.

Other new tests for the Taiwan-mainland China relationship:

  • Taiwanese officials are on high alert about a potential breakthrough in Vatican-Beijing relations, which would sideline Taipei.
  • Activists are furious about the wife of Lee Ming-che 李明哲 being unable to visit him while he is jailed in China, allegedly in part for posts he made on Facebook.
  • China’s reunification dream will remain out of reach as long as Taiwanese feel they don’t belong, says Wang Chi 王冀, president of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation.

Source: SubChina “U.S. reinforces its relationship with Taiwan as part of a pushback on Beijing’s influence”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Cross-strait military build-up heightens war-risk and increases likelihood of discrimination against Taiwan and US companies in China


David Li – IHS Jane’s Intelligence Weekly
19 February 2018

Key Points
•Taiwan’s relations with China have deteriorated significantly since President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office, as indicated by an increase in hostile rhetoric and Chinese military activities near Taiwan’s airspace, including increased frequency and scale of Chinese military exercises near Taiwan, to which Taiwan has objected.
•From a Chinese perspective, securing the “first island chain” extending from the Malay Peninsula to the Beijing Sea is a strategic imperative. The increased military activity in the East China Sea and defence capabilities of the US and its allies (notably Japan and South Korea) in response has increased China’s perception that it is under threat, and strengthened its commitment to achieving military dominance of the region.
•Chinese maritime exercises around Taiwan will likely become routine, while Chinese patrols and selective discriminatory measures against Taiwanese firms present elevated risk of cargo and marine transport disruption. Chinese air force incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), would increase war risk, however escalation to full-scale war is unlikely.

Event

Since October 2017, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was reported to be working on a plan to increase the military budget significantly, signalling the need for Taiwan to develop advanced weapon systems and acquire more military equipment from the US.

In a report released in December 2017, the Ministry of National Defence (MND) explicitly designated China as the island’s biggest security threat, making specific reference to the increase in frequency of Chinese military activities. China’s air force carried out 14 military aircraft exercises close to Taiwan’s ADIZ from July to December 2017, compared to only two from January to June. On January 2018, Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, briefly entered the Taiwan ADIZ while sailing towards the South China Sea.

On 4 January, Taiwan had sharply criticised a decision by the Civil Aviation Administration Authority of China (CAAC) allowing the use of the M503 civil flight route, ostensibly to ease airspace congestion over southeast China.

Source: Jane’s 360 “Cross-strait military build-up heightens war-risk and increases likelihood of discrimination against Taiwan and US companies in China”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Taiwan president wishes China happy new year, gets warm response


Reuters Staff February 15, 2018

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wished “friends” in China a happy Lunar New Year on Thursday, drawing a surprisingly warm reaction from Chinese state media which is more used to disparaging her as a dangerous separatist

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potentially dangerous military flashpoint. China considers the self-ruled island its sacred territory and a wayward province and it has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

China has become increasingly hostile to Taiwan since Tsai, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won election in 2016, believing she wants to push for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China.

In a video message to mark Chinese New Year, which falls on Friday, Tsai said the festival was an important one for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as they share many of the same traditions.

“Through people-to-people exchanges and media broadcasts, this has narrowed the psychological gap between both sides,” Tsai said.

“I want to use this opportunity to send new year’s greetings to friends on the other side (of the Taiwan Strait) and ethnic Chinese in other parts of the world.”

China’s state-run Global Times, known for its stridently nationalistic stance and which often calls the island’s president “provincial governor Tsai”, said it would normally criticize her, but in this case would reciprocate the goodwill.

“If Tsai Ing-wen really wants to use the Spring Festival to show goodwill, of course we welcome it,” it said on its website, using another name for the holiday.

Underscoring China’s continued suspicion though, the Global Times also posted a screenshot of disparaging comments – one extremely vulgar – made by people on Facebook responding to Tsai’s greeting. Facebook is blocked in China.

Tsai, in her message, also expressed condolences to the families of nine Chinese tourists killed in an earthquake in Taiwan last week.

“As I have said, on humanitarian relief there is no distance between the two sides of the strait.”

However, the run-up to the new year was marked by more bickering between Beijing and Taipei.

This week, Taiwan accused China of insensitivity by announcing that Papua New Guinea had downgraded its relations with the island while Taiwan was still dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake.[nL4N1Q24C2]

Taiwan and China have also traded accusations about China opening a new route for civil aircraft over the Taiwan Strait, which Taiwan says could affect flight safety.[nL4N1PQ2LV]

Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Writing and additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel

Source: Reuters “Taiwan president wishes China happy new year, gets warm response”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.