Over the weekend, China sent large numbers of military aircraft into the southwestern portion of the Taiwan air defense identification zone, near the strategic Pratas Islands, which guard the southern approach to the Taiwan Strait.
The Saturday demonstration of airpower was provocative, including nuclear-capable bombers and swift fighters used in offensive operations. Though the Chinese planes stayed in international airspace, Beijing appeared to deliver hostile messages to Taipei. The Sunday flight was the twentieth Chinese air incursion in less than a month.
The air exercises also sent a warning to President Biden. It did not take long for his team to push back. The State Department issued a statement calling on China to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue” with Taiwan. It declared the United States “commitment to Taiwan is rock solid.”
Perhaps most significantly, the statement mentioned the robust but often ignored “Six Assurances” of the Reagan era. John Tkacik, a retired foreign service officer who served in both Beijing and Taipei, told me the pledge of Biden with the “Six Assurances” is diplomatese for “the United States does not accept Chinese claims to sovereignty over Taiwan.”
Washington also responded in a powerfully symbolic way.
The United States Navy Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group entered the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas.” China claims almost the entire body of water as its own “blue national soil” even though almost every other country considers it part of the global commons, according to The Hill.
China, which has never exercised sovereign functions over Taiwan, claims the island as one of its provinces.
Taking control of the Republic of China, which is the formal name of Taiwan,