Chinese naval forces showed no signs of let-up Monday against Taiwan, flying warplanes again close to the self-ruled island days after a pair of controversial U.S. congressional visits that infuriated Beijing.
People’s Liberation Army warships and warplanes sharply escalated what Pentagon officials have called coercive military activities near Taiwan beginning in early August, following the visit to Taipei by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But instead of a falling off of military activities after a second congressional delegation to the island last week, the PLA is maintaining an aggressive tempo of naval and air activities.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Monday that five PLA warships and 15 aircraft were spotted “around our surrounding region” Monday. The five warships have been near the island since Friday, when six warships were spotted, the ministry said.
Large numbers of warplanes have been flying at Taiwan since earlier in the month, with as many 51 aircraft flights detected on Aug. 18.
“We condemn [the] PLA for jeopardizing the peace and security of our surrounding region with announcements of military drills,” the defense ministry said.
The Biden administration has criticized the stepped-up Chinese military activity but stopped short of issuing a condemnation. U.S. officials say American policy regarding Taiwan‘s status has not changed and Beijing is “overreacting.”
But the administration fears taking a tougher posture toward China could lead to a conflict, a policy that has been used by Beijing propaganda outlets to argue that heightened tensions are a way to influence U.S. policy in China’s favor.
The stepped-up Chinese military campaign appears to be a new level of activity that was present only periodically in the past, analysts say. In the past, China’s military did not station warships around the island and while the PLA made regular warplane flights, the flights were fewer in number than the current coercion campaign.
The official Xinhua news agency reported Sunday that military and political countermeasures announced after the Pelosi visit are the fault of the United States.
“It was the United States who incited the trouble, created the crisis and escalated the situation,” Xinhua said. “Now the troublemaker who orchestrated the malicious provocation is playing the victim and putting the blame on China.”
Colin Kahl, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said recently that China had manufactured a “crisis” with coercive war games around Taiwan after the House speaker’s visit.
“We continue to have a one-China policy and we continue to object to any unilateral change in the status quo, whether that be from [China] or from Taiwan,” Mr. Kahl recently told reporters. “So really, China’s reaction was completely unnecessary.”
Taiwan military forces monitored the military activities and responded with aircraft interceptors, naval vessels near the Chinese warships and activating land-based missile defense systems, the ministry said on Twitter. Aerial activity included flights by Su-30, J-10, J-11, J-16 and JH-7 fighter jets. The J-11 and J-16 are copies of the Russian Su-27.
The Chinese air force also sent two Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft in the latest sorties.
Eleven of the Chinese jets crossed the median-line down the 100-mile Taiwan Strait and entered the air defense identification zone used by the Taiwan military to monitor aerial threats.
Taiwanese defense officials have said crossing the median line is a violation of the fragile status quo between China and Taiwan that has kept the peace for some 60 years.
The PLA navy also announced Saturday that two newly-deployed Type 055 large destroyers are involved in exercises near Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times reported Monday. In addition to Taiwan-targeted moves, the two warships will be used for future naval operations aimed at “island chain-breaking far sea operations like encircling Japan and patrolling near Alaska.”