Though all eyes are on the deadly coronavirus pandemic, another dangerous military close encounter just played out off Taiwan’s coast on Wednesday.
“Three U.S. Air Force planes, including two B-52 bombers, flew near Taiwan on Wednesday, the island’s defense ministry said, after Taiwan’s air force scrambled earlier in the week to intercept Chinese jets,” Reuters reports.
The prior Sunday and Monday incidents involved Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) bombers and fighters approaching the self-declared Republic of China (Taiwan), before Taiwan scrambled its own US-supplied F-16 fighters to shadow the ‘invading’ aircraft.
A senior US State Department official in the region called China’s behavior “completely inappropriate” and condemned the “aggressive act.”
Wednesday’s “response” by the Americans consisted in the following:
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said one U.S. MC-130, a special mission aircraft based on the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, flew down the Taiwan Strait in a southerly direction on Wednesday.
The two U.S. B-52 bombers skirted Taiwan’s east coast, also in a southerly direction, the ministry added.
Beijing has been engaged in provocative “island encirclement drills” somewhat routinely over the past half decade, resulting in multiple close encounters with US and Taiwanese forces, especially in the air and water, especially the contested Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou pledged that such Chinese aggression will only “deepen cooperation with countries with similar ideals, including the United States, in response to the rising Chinese military threat.”
There’s little new here in such provocations and reactions, and counter-statements out of Taipei; however, Taiwan officials have tapped into a new argument sure to add insult to injury amid its ongoing standoff to assert territorial control in the face of much larger and more powerful China.
Reuters reports of a deeply provocative statement amid China’s worst crisis in years:
Taiwan has urged China to focus its efforts on fighting the new coronavirus rather than menacing the island.
No doubt this will do little to east tensions, and will only exacerbate them, likely only giving further invitation for China to “save face” and attempt to show that its military is stronger than ever and remains ‘undistracted’ by the deadly and society-threatening pandemic in its midst.