Raise your hand if you think the timing of this in relationship to Joe Biden’s trip to the G7 and NATO Summits is a coincidence.
China sees, along with the rest of the world, that Joe Biden is not up to the task of being president. Even when younger and fully in possession of all his faculties, Joe Biden was among the dimmest of bulbs in the Senate. The Chinese have always known that, and much like Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Chinese are looking to exploit their opportunities to capitalize on the foreign policy paralysis that will now persist under the Biden Administration.
After having dialed back their incursions into Taiwan airspace over the last few months, the Chinese returned to that practice in a big way on Tuesday.
China’s air force sent 28 aircraft close to Taiwan, the largest sortie this year, further ratcheting up military pressure on the government in Taipei as it seeks to strengthen ties with the US.
The 28 People’s Liberation Army aircraft, including 14 J-16 and six J-11 fighters, were detected in Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday (June 15), Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a statement.
This is the J-16. The design was derived from the Russian SU-27 fighter of the 1990s. The J-16 is the most recent version, coming into service only in 2015. It is identified as the carrier-based version, although it is unknown if the planes which overflow Taiwan airspace were launched from a Chinse aircraft carrier — they have only one that is operational.
The J-11 is an earlier version of the same plane, first introduced into service in 1998.
I have previously written about Chinese military aircraft incursions into Taiwan’s airspace. This story was back on January 24, only three days into the Biden Administration. On that day, in its largest incursion ever to that point in time with military aircraft, China sent 15 fighters and bombers through Taiwan’s airspace. Today’s incursion was nearly two times bigger than back in January and included twenty fighters, four bombers, and four support aircraft.
“This big mission is a reminder that China has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan, and its size and composition broadcasts Beijing’s willingness to actively confront, with military might if necessary, anyone who opposes it,” said Mr Drew Thompson, a former official overseeing military-to-military relations for the US defense secretary, who is now a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
This renewed activity in Taiwanese airspace follows on Chinese military flights through other areas of contested airspace. Back on June 1, Chinese military transport aircraft flew a training mission over contested waters near Malaysian Borneo. The Malaysia Air Force scrambled fighter jets to maintain a watchful eye on the Chinese aircraft. Afterward, the Chinese military issued a curious response to a diplomatic protest made by Malaysia over the flight:
China’s embassy earlier said the planes conducted routine flight training and “strictly abided by” international law without violating airspace of other countries.
“China and Malaysia are friendly neighbours, and China is willing to continue bilateral friendly consultations with Malaysia to jointly maintain regional peace and stability,” a spokesman said.
“Willing to continue”? What’s the alternative if Malaysia wants to continue to protest Chinese flights?
This is all part of China’s aggressive push to control large areas of the South China Sea in order to isolate Taiwan, as well as to intimidate any countries in the region that might otherwise protest Chinese aggression against Taiwan.
With Joe Biden now in the White House, most of these countries are now on their own.