Taiwan scrambles jets to shadow Chinese air force as tensions mount
PLA Air Force drills are latest in series of incidents coming after US crosses Beijing's red line with policy shift
Taiwan’s air force on Monday sent aircraft to shadow jets from mainland China that crossed over a channel to the South of the island, as tensions continue to mount in the region.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew an unspecified number of Xian H-6 bombers, Su-30 fighter jets and Y-8 transport aircraft over the Bashi Channel, Reuters reported Taiwan’s defense ministry as saying.
The incident comes after a Chinese aircraft carrier group sailed through the Taiwan Strait last week, prompting Taiwan to send an aircraft carrier to follow the mainland vessels.
US policy shift?
China’s military movements near Taiwan, a territory Beijing considers to be a wayward province of the People’s Republic of China, come as the United States sends signals of a potential policy shift on the issue.
In addition to endorsing the so-called “One China Policy,” which maintains that there is one China and that Taiwan is part of China, Washington has traditionally been careful to keep a low profile in its support for the status quo. The US continues to sell arms to the island territory and effectively support de facto administrative independence – both of which policies Beijing considers unacceptable in the long term.
While US President Donald Trump backed off his pre-inauguration threat to reconsider the “One China Policy,” his administration’s foreign policy team is taking shape as a decidedly pro-Taiwan group.
As seasoned China watcher Bill Bishop summarized at Axios:
“Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are known as very ‘pro-Taiwan,’ as is Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
“The nomination of Susan Thornton to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs is apparently dead in the wake of the firing of Rex Tillerson, and some of the names I am hearing who may be nominated for that spot are advocates of a much closer U.S.-Taiwan relationship.”
Schriver, more than being just pro-Taiwan, has dedicated much of his career as CEO and President of the Project 2049 Insitute to promoting greater official recognition of Taiwan’s international role as a nation that enjoys de facto independence from China.
Trump’s decision to sign the Taiwan Travel Act before it would have automatically gone into effect last Saturday amounted to an enthusiastic endorsement of one of the policy recommendations consistently made by the Project 2049 Institute, namely, to increase official government ties. The legislation authorizes US officials to meet with Taiwanese counterparts in an official capacity.
Beijing has called the law a red line. It is uncertain how they will enforce this red line, which has already been crossed by the passage of the bill with an exclamation point added in the form of Trump’s unnecessary signature.