As the Trump administration has maintained its focus on the North Korean threat, there is another, potentially more severe, crisis unfolding in the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan.
Relations between China and Taiwan have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016, Beijing cut off communications with Taipei, stripped it of its democratic allies, and even conducted naval and air operations around the island in a show of force to ensure the island had minimal participation with international organizations.
In 2017, the Trump administration signaled the traditional U.S. commitment to Taiwan in multiple gestures. For instance, the president allowed for a massive $1.42 billion arms deal, which infuriated Beijing. Another gesture by the Trump was Taipei’s entry into the Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers to the U.S.
While Taiwan shifted closer to the United States in 2017, Chinese diplomat Li Kexin informed U.S. officials in early December that the moment one of its warships visits Taiwan, Beijing will launch an invasion on the island.
Tensions have once again deteriorated this week as Chinese airlines have canceled hundreds of flights to Taiwan as disputes over aviation routes continue. Two major carriers, China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, announced Tuesday they canceled the flights because Taiwan’s government refused to approve them.
In conjunction with hundreds of canceled flights before the Lunar New Year, Taiwan troops staged a massive live-fire war drill to simulate an invasion by China on Tuesday.
The military simulated an attack on the island using reconnaissance aircrafts to surveil incoming warships, followed by tanks firing rounds at the “mimicked enemy” landing around the Port of Hualien in eastern Taiwan.
In the air, attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets launched assaults, supporting ground troops who battled the simulated enemy wearing red helmets.
Taiwan’s ministry did not outright define who the simulated invasion was by, but it is pretty clear with the chart below who that is.
Further, the ministry said the annual drill was to “show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security.”
The Taiwan Strait is the waterway that divides the island from China.
Cross-strait relations have turned frosty since the inauguration of Tsai, who refuses to acknowledge self-ruling, democratic Taiwan is part of “one China.” The drill on Tuesday takes place annually prior to Lunar New Year holiday — which lands in mid-February this year — as a way to boost public confidence in Taiwan’s defence capabilities.
“Our combat readiness has no holidays,” Huang Kai-sen, a Taiwanese lieutenant general, told AFP.
“In order for our citizens to feel safe during the Chinese New Year, we are standing by and on guard 24 hours a day,” he added.