US and China on a knife's edge over Taiwan ahead of Xi-Biden phone call
The latest American showdown with China was sparked by leaked plans for a possible visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan -- and is particularly dangerous because it is driven by domestic politics on both sides of the Pacific.
The spat is worsening already poor relations between the United States and China, as their 21st-century superpower tussle takes shape.
It also complicates a call expected as soon as Thursday between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Taiwan has long looked like the most likely spark to a military escalation between the US and China.
Under the complicated web of agreements governing relations with Beijing, Washington only grants formal diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China but maintains close ties with Taiwan -- a self-governing democracy over which China claims sovereignty.
The US policy of strategic ambiguity has left it hazy what it would do if China ever invades Taiwan, partly to avoid encouraging a formal independence declaration by the government in Taipei. But the US is bound by law to offer Taiwan the means to defend itself.
Biden’s call with Xi Jinping will focus on areas of U.S.-China cooperation
President Joe Biden’s upcoming call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping will focus on areas of potential cooperation between the U.S. and China, the White House said Wednesday
Even as diplomatic relations between the two nations are fraught with tension over Russia, intellectual property disputes, and, even, espionage.
“There is an awful lot in the bilateral relationship between the United States and China for these two leaders to talk about,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, noting that the call would take place “in the coming days” and would be Biden and Xi’s 5th leader-to-leader conversation.
As rising tensions between Washington and Beijing dominated news headlines, Kirby insisted that there was an inherent value in holding a call, even if Biden and Xi did not resolve any of their myriad issues of disagreement.
Warnings of China-U.S. military miscalculation grow
The warnings from the U.S. side have been rife: From top American military officers to senior White House officials, the message out of Washington is one of deep concern that the Chinese military has become significantly more aggressive in Asia and that it is “only a matter of time” before a major incident or accident involving the U.S. occurs.
The latest entreaty came Tuesday, with the Pentagon’s top Asia official claiming Beijing has been “combining its growing military power with greater willingness to take risks.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner pointed to a sharp increase in “unsafe and unprofessional behavior” by Chinese military ships and aircraft targeting not only the U.S. but also allied forces operating in the region.
“In my view, this aggressive and irresponsible behavior represents one of the most significant threats to peace and stability in the region today, including in the South China Sea.
And if the PLA continues this pattern of behavior, it is only a matter of time before there is a major incident or accident in the region,” Ratner told a think tank event in Washington.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has embarked on a massive modernization program in recent years, and instances of Chinese bravado have in turn grown as the country seeks to be recognized as a military powerhouse.
But Beijing could also be undergoing a policy shift, seeking to respond more forcefully to what it sees as threats to its national security and sovereignty by the U.S. and others.
China's behavior could trigger a ‘major incident’
China is showing increasingly “aggressive and irresponsible behavior” in the South China Sea which it claims almost in its entirety and it will only be “a matter of time” before its actions trigger a “major incident” in the disputed waters, American officials warned on Tuesday.
There is a “clear and upward trend” of Chinese “provocations” against other countries that are lawfully operating in the region, said Jung Pak, deputy assistant secretary for East Asia at the US Department of State, during a forum hosted and live-streamed by the US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.
The U.S. says Beijing's South China Sea 'provocations' risk a major incident
The United States on Tuesday accused China of increased "provocations" against rival claimants in the South China Sea and said its "aggressive and irresponsible behavior" meant it was only a matter of time before a major incident or accident.
Jung Pak, deputy assistant secretary for East Asia at the State Department, told a U.S. think tank there was "a clear and upward trend of PRC provocations against South China Sea claimants and other states lawfully operating in the region,” referring to the People's Republic of China.
She told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Chinese aircraft had increasingly engaged in unsafe intercepts of Australian aircraft in international airspace above the South China Sea and in three separate incidents in the last few months had challenged marine research and energy exploration activities within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
Speaking later at the same event, Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said there had been "dozens" of incidents in the first half of the year involving the Chinese military in the South China Sea, a sharp increase over the past five years. Source: CNBC,JT, INCI, Reuters, Bloomberg...