Taiwan Prepares for Mega-Live-Fire War Games as Tensions Soar

August 11th, 2021 - by Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com & Committee for a Sane US-China Policy

The Mid-September Drills Will Follow
Massive US Military Exercises in August

Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com

 (August 10, 2021) — Taiwan announced Tuesday that it will stage its largest annual war games in mid-September, simulating a Chinese attack as tensions are soaring in the region. The live-fire drills, known as the Han Kuang military exercise, will involve all branches of Taiwan’s military.

The war games will be held on the island of Taiwan and offshore with simultaneous land, sea, and air exercises. According to The South China Morning Post, warplanes will for the first time test emergency take-offs and landings on a strip of highway in Pingtung, which is located in southern Taiwan and is designated as a wartime runway. Taiwan has four other emergency runways on a freeway that have previously been tested.

“A test of emergency take-offs and landings of fighter jets on the Jiadong wartime runway — a major element of the exercise — will be conducted as planned,” said Maj. Gen. Lin Wen-huang. The drills will simulate an event where Taiwan’s military and civilian runways are damaged by enemy fire.

The exercises will be held for five days starting September 13th and will be held following massive military drills being held in the western Pacific by the US and its allies. China is preparing for its own drills in the South China Sea that will begin later this week.

The Biden administration recently approved its first arms sale for Taiwan, moving forward a deal for $750 million worth of howitzers and related equipment. President Biden has kept up monthly warship transits through the Taiwan Strait, sailing seven US Navy destroyers through the sensitive waterway since coming into office. Besides the military support, the Biden administration has also taken steps to boost diplomatic ties with Taipei, picking up where the previous administration left off.

Biden Administration Approves Its First Arms Sale to Taiwan

The Deal: $750 Million Worth of Howitzers and Armored Vehicles

Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com

(August 4, 2021) — On Wednesday, the State Department approved an arms sale to Taiwan for howitzers and related equipment worth an estimated $750 million. It is the first weapons deal for Taipei approved by the Biden administration and comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the US and China.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the deal includes 40 self-propelled howitzers, several other armored vehicles, five mounted .50 caliber machine guns, and 1,698 kits that can covert standard projectiles into precision-guided munitions.

The State Department notified Congress of the sale, which starts the congressional review period. The primary contractor for the deal is BAE Systems, which will now negotiate the details of the contract with Taiwan.

The US has been arming Taiwan since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979.  In 2020, the US moved forward $5.1 billion in arms sales for the island. The US has also taken steps in recent years to strengthen diplomatic relations with Taipei, angering Beijing. Both the Trump administration and the Biden administration eased restrictions on US contacts with Taiwanese officials.

On top of the warming diplomatic ties, the US is also stepping up military activity near Taiwan. Since Biden came into office, the US has sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait seven times, keeping up the transits at a monthly rate. A US warship steamed through the sensitive waterway 13 times in 2020, a record high.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

ACTION ALERT: Tell Your Senators and Representatives:
No New Arms Sales to Taiwan!

Committee for a Sane US-China Policy

(August 9, 2021) — On Aug. 4, the Biden administration announced that it would sell $750 worth of new weaponry to Taiwan, consisting of 40 M109 self-propelled howitzers up to 1,698 kits to turn projectiles into precision-guided munitions. Congress now has 30 days to disapprove the sale. Tell your representatives that this is not the time to sell more weapons to Taiwan, when tensions with China are at a fever pitch.

According to the State Dept., “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.” In fact, it will do nothing of the sort: it will not help maintain the military balance with China — an impossibility at this point — and will inflame, rather than calm political stability.

As we build a movement to pull the US and China back from the brink, people have been expressing the need to know more about Chinese history and the history of US-Chinese cooperation and confrontations. Co-sponsored by the Committee for a Sane US China Policy, Massachusetts Peace Action, and the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security.

ACTION: Join our August 26 Webinar: The US and China — Past, Present and Future: Conflict and Cooperation in US-China Relations. Featuring the engaged scholars Zhu Zhiqun and Mark Selden. Thu August 26 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm EDT, Register at: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZModOmorz4rHtwRKZ9w0MwVaDenIP6Hy8GI

Biden Tightens Screws on China,
China Responds Angrily: “Catastrophe” Awaits

Michael T. Klare / Co-Founder, Committee for a Sane US-China Policy

(August 6, 2021) — During the final week of July, the Biden administration conducted a coordinated series of diplomatic endeavors intended to solidify multilateral opposition to China’s rise in the Asia-Pacific region. These activities included visits to Japan, South Korea, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on July 18-26; and visits to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on July 26-30.

In each of their appearances, Sherman and Austin emphasized America’s disagreements with China and its determination to resist the PRC on multiple levels. Not surprisingly, these statements provoked a harsh response from Chinese officials. Bottom line: the administration’s campaign to isolate China will ensure that relations with China will continue to deteriorate, making cooperation on climate change and other key global issues increasing impossible and military action ever more likely. 

Wendy Sherman’s visits to Japan and South Korea on July 20-21 were largely intended to bolster US ties with those key allies and to further advance the Biden administration’s strategy of building a web of anti-Chinese alliances in Asia, usually described by US officials as “the rules-based international order.” 

While in Tokyo, Deputy Secretary Sherman met with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo on July 20, where the two diplomats reportedly “reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Japan Alliance, which remains the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the rules-based international order.” [1] 

Sherman then met with both Mori and South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong Kun. In a joint statement, the three officials reaffirmed their commitment to resisting China’s assertive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region, including its menacing behavior toward Taiwan and the Japanese-claimed Senkaku Islands (also claimed by China) in the East China Sea. (Japan now administers the islands, and the US has pledged to assist Japanese defense forces there if they come under attack by Chinese forces.)

According to the State Dept., the three “reiterated opposition to all activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order; affirmed the need to maintain an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific; [and] opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea.” [2] At a joint press conference on July 20, Sherman went further, saying, “When countries take actions that run counter to the United States’ interests or that threaten our partners and allies, we will not let those challenges go unanswered.” [3] 

Wendy Sherman’s visit to Tianjin in China on July 26 represented the highest-level official visit to the PRC by an administration official since Biden assumed office in January. While in Tianjin (a city approximately one hour northeast of Beijing), she met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other senior government officials.

From all accounts, Sherman used the occasion to inform the Chinese leadership that the Biden administration would prioritize competition and confrontation with Beijing over cooperation on matters of common concern — a shift from earlier Biden statements, which seemed to place competition and cooperation on an even keel. This is evident not only from the Chinese reaction (discussed below) but also from the State Department “readout” of the encounter.

“The Deputy Secretary raised concerns in private — as we have in public — about a range of PRC actions that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, and that undermine the international rules-based order. In particular, she raised our concerns about human rights, including Beijing’s anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong; the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang; abuses in Tibet; and the curtailing of media access and freedom of the press. She also spoke about our concerns about Beijing’s conduct in cyberspace; across the Taiwan Strait; and in the East and South China Seas.” [4]

For those familiar with Chinese leadership thinking, this is a non-starter for cooperation: Beijing views its actions in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang as justified by national security, and rejects any notion that its crackdown on the Uyghurs constitutes “genocide.” Likewise, it views Taiwan as an internal matter, and disputes Washington’s assessment of its behavior in cyberspace and the East and South China Seas.

These certainly are issues that deserve serious investigation and condemnation where appropriate — and the Committee for a Sane US China Policy has been critical of Beijing’s repressive behavior in Hong Kong and Xinjiang — but this is not the way to initiate constructive diplomatic relations with China. 

Lloyd Austin’s visit to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines on July 26-30 was consistent with the administration’s goal of building a network of pro-Western states surrounding China, vaguely resembling NATO. At the core of this network is the “Quad,” an anti-China alliance of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. In his Singapore speech on July 27, Austin stated that “structures like the Quad make the region’s security architecture even more durable.” 

While in Singapore, Austin addressed the Asian branch of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, in which he described the US-China relationship as one of intense competition on every front: “This is a competition, [and] not just in the military realm,” he declared. It’s a competition in the economic realm, in science and technology, and you name it.” 

Austin said he hoped that this competition will not result in conflict with China, but suggested that the best way to prevent this from happening was the preservation of US military superiority vis-à-vis toward China — a natural invitation to an everlasting arms race. “We’re also making sure that we … continue to have [a] credible military capability … that would deter anyone that would want to … make the mistake of taking us on.”

In his speech, Austin pledged to continue US military support for Taiwan, and warned China against attacking US allies in the East and South China Seas. He also and condemned Beijing’s “genocide” of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang — a charge first leveled by Mike Pompeo during the final months of the Trump administration and since embraced by the Biden administration, without providing documentation. [5] 

While in Vietnam, Austin sought to promote closer military ties between the US and Vietnam, particularly with respect to countering Chinese influence in the South China Sea. Vietnam, a former US adversary, has sought limited US military aid to counter China’s power in the South China Sea, where both have tussled over competing offshore territorial disputes. [6] 

While in the Philippines, Austin announced that the two countries would renew the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows US military forces to engage in joint military exercises with their Filipino counterparts on their territory. The Philippines’ mercurial president, Rodrigo Duterte, said a year ago that he would let the VFA lapse, but changed his mind during Austin’s visit. [7] 

Chinese reaction to the Sherman and Austin visits was harsh. After Sherman met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in Tianjin, Xie issued a statement condemning the US for “demonizing” China and conducting a “highly misguided … and dangerous policy” toward the PRC. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Xie told Sherman:
“the China-US relationship is now in a stalemate and faces serious difficulties. Fundamentally, it is because some Americans portray China as an ‘imagined enemy’…. It seems that a whole-of-government and whole-of-society campaign is being waged to bring China down…. We urge the United States to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy.” [8] 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi provided an equally harsh assessment of his own meeting with Wendy Sherman in Tianjin. According to the Ministry’s account of his remarks, he complained to Sherman that “the new US administration has in general continued its predecessor’s extreme and erroneous China policy [and] stepped up containment and suppression on China.” This is due to Washington’s “misperceptions” of China, he said:
“The United States, regarding China as the uppermost rival or even tending to consider China as an opponent, attempts to impede and disrupt China’s modernization drive. Such an attempt is doomed to fail for now, and is even more so in the future.”

Wang went on to warn the administration from interfering in China’s internal affairs, including its policies regarding Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. “As for the Taiwan question, it’s even more important,” he asserted. “Although the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have not yet been reunified, the fact that the Chinese mainland and Taiwan belong to one and the same China and Taiwan is part of China has never changed and will never change. If ‘Taiwan independence’ forces dare to provoke, China has the right to take any necessary measure to stop it. We urge the US side to honor its commitment on Taiwan question and act prudently.” [9]

Wang ended on an ominous note: “China is the largest developing country and the United States is the largest developed country, and neither side can replace or defeat the other. We have a clear view on where China-US relations are headed, that is, to find a way for two major countries with different systems, cultures and stages of development to coexist peacefully on this planet through dialogue. It would be even better if it could be mutually beneficial. This is a good thing for both China and the United States, and a great boon for the world. Otherwise, it would be a catastrophe.” [9]

 [1] https://www.state.gov/deputy-secretary-shermans-meeting-with-japanese-vice-foreign-minister-mori-takeo/
 [2] https://www.state.gov/deputy-secretary-shermans-trilateral-meeting-with-japanese-vice-foreign-minister-mori-and-republic-of-korea-first-vice-foreign-minister-choi/
 [3] https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-japan-1ab747d5698354fc46af03dda6c90682
 [4] https://www.state.gov/deputy-secretary-shermans-visit-to-the-peoples-republic-of-china/
 [5] https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/2711025/secretary-of-defense-lloyd-j-austin-iii-participates-in-fullerton-lecture-serie/
 [6] https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2021/07/28/as-tensions-with-china-mount-us-defense-secretary-visits-vietnam-vows-support-for-region/
 [7] https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2021/07/30/philippines-retains-pact-allowing-us-war-exercises-as-china-tensions-mount/
 [8] https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjbxw/t1894983.shtml
 [9] https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/wjb_663304/wjbz_663308/activities_663312/t1895278.shtml