China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched a second round of military drills near Taiwan to deter “political tricks” by the U.S. and the authorities in Taiwan, following a second trip by a group of U.S. lawmakers to the island, said Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA.
Shi said the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command in Nanjing had “organized joint combat-readiness security patrol and combat training exercise involving troops of multiple services and arms in waters and airspace around Taiwan Island.”
No further details were given about the drills, in sharp contrast to those carried out earlier this month in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) traveling to Taiwan and meeting with senior leaders there. The second round of military drills are in response to a visit to Taiwan by five U.S. lawmakers on Sunday.
China regards Taiwan as a Chinese province in rebellion and sees any support for the government there as interference in China’s internal affairs. The government in Taiwan was once the republican government of all of China, but it lost the civil war in 1949 when the socialist People’s Republic of China was founded on the mainland. Since then, the forces in Taiwan have maintained their autonomy from Beijing only thanks to US support, even though Washington switched its recognition of the legitimate Chinese government from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
When Pelosi was in Taiwan, she declared Washington’s solidarity with Taipei and promised the US would “not abandon” Taiwan to what she called Chinese “authoritarianism.” U.S. Senator Ed Markey and the four others who arrived in Taiwan on Sunday have made similar declarations, saying their visits are intended to send a message to China, too.
“Consistent with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States must continue to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the international community and help Taiwan withstand cross-Strait coercion,” Markey said in a statement. “We must continue to work together to avoid conflict and miscalculation in the Taiwan Strait.”
However, Markey has said nothing about the U.S. warships and aircraft heading toward that 80-mile-wide waterway separating Taiwan from the mainland. Since China sees Taiwan as a Chinese province, China also sees the strait as part of its internal waters, instead of international waters, as the U.S. claims.
“We will ensure that our presence, posture and exercise account for China’s more provocative and destabilizing behavior towards guiding the situation in the western Pacific towards greater stability,” Kurt Campbell, the U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, told reporters on Friday. “We will continue to take calm and resolute steps to uphold stability in the face of Beijing’s ongoing efforts to undermine it, and to support Taiwan in line with our long-standing policy.”
The Pentagon has said it plans to conduct regular air and sea transits of the strait, which are seen as provocative during calmer times, to say nothing of the present situation. It echoes the U.S. Navy’s patrols of the strait during the First and Second Taiwan crises of the 1950s, which prevented the PLA from crossing the strait and reuniting the country. The mutual defense treaty with Taiwan has since been abrogated, due to the U.S. no longer formally recognizing the Taiwanese government, making the new patrols even more awkward.
The group of U.S. lawmakers touched down in Taipei on Sunday and included Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA) and Aumua Amata, a nonvoting congress member who represents American Samoa.
The four will meet with senior Taiwanese officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen, who leads a pro-independence faction in the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan.
Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said the Americans’ visit “seriously violates the ‘One China’ principle and the provisions of the three joint China-U.S. communiqués, violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, sends the wrong signal to separatist forces advocating Taiwan’s independence, completely exposes the face of the U.S. as the destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Japanese Ministers’ Visit To Yasukuni Shrine Infuriates China And South Korea
On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, and several members of his cabinet paid a visit to the war memorial in Tokyo’s Chioda ward. Kishida did not attend in person, but sent his secretary with a private cash offering, while Economic Security Minister Takaichi Sanae and Reconstruction Minister Akiba Kenya traveled to the Shinto shrine to pay their respects, according to Kyodo News Agency.
The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan’s war dead and is inscribed with the names of more than 2.4 million people who died in the service of Japan, including Taiwanese and Koreans. It is not just for soldiers, but also women and students involved in relief operations on the battlefield or who worked in factories related to the war effort. The occasion of the visit was the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in 1945, which ended the Second World War.
However, among those honored are numerous war criminals, including 14 people described as “Class-A” at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trials, which were held by the Allied powers between 1946 and 1948. Those in this category were accused of “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression,” or conspiracy to those ends, and included some of Japan’s top military and civilian leadership during the war.
In 1895, the Japanese Empire invaded and seized Taiwan from China, turning the island into a sugar colony for 50 years, until it was returned to Beijing at the end of World War II. Just four years later, the communist Red Army triumphed in the Chinese Civil War, but the old republican government survived in Taiwan with U.S. help.
The Chinese and South Korean governments were far from happy about the visits by such high-ranking Japanese officials.
The Japanese Empire invaded, conquered, and ruled all of Korea and much of China for several decades, during which numerous crimes against humanity were committed, including enslavement, rape, and genocide.
“The government expresses deep disappointment and regret that responsible leaders of Japan’s government and parliament again sent the offering or repeated their visits to the Yasukuni Shrine,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement, urging Tokyo to face up to history.
Just a few months ago, Seoul issued a similar denunciation following another donation to the shrine by Kishida.
China’s reaction was more strongly worded, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin telling reporters that the visit “once again shows the Japanese side’s erroneous attitude toward historical issues.”
“Facing up to and deeply reflecting on history is an essential prerequisite for Japan to restore and develop normal relations with its Asian neighbors after World War II,” Wang said. “For quite some time, some Japanese politicians have kept using various means to distort and glorify its history of aggression and openly acted against important legal instruments including the Cairo Declaration of 1943, which clearly stipulates that Taiwan shall be restored to China.”
“This constitutes serious defiance to the outcome of the World Anti-fascist War and the post-war international order. This is unacceptable to anyone who loves peace and stands for justice. Those who try to turn back the wheel of history are bound to find themselves on the wrong path again. Only by sticking to the path of peaceful development can Japan find the right direction. We urge the Japanese side to draw lessons from history, make a clean break with militarism and avoid further losing the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Wang stated.
Tokyo has especially worried China in recent years as Abe’s militarist faction pushed to try and amend the pacifist clause of the country’s constitution, which it adopted after the war. The clause bans Japan from possessing a formal military or from engaging in offensive operations and restricts it to forces sufficient for its self-defense.
Germany Sends Fighter Jets To Indo-Pacific Training Mission
Media reports from Germany said:
Germany is participating in joint exercises with Australia amid rising tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific. The fighter jets will need to be refueled 200 times en route to the Pacific.
Germany is sending 13 military aircraft to joint exercises in Australia, in one of the German air force’s largest peacetime deployments amid rising tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific.
The aircraft will participate in the “Pitch Black” training exercise, along with forces from Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
“Of course, our current focus is clearly directed towards the east,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“But we must also direct our attention toward other regions,” she added.
Six Eurofighter jets took off on Monday from a base in Neuberg an der Donau, in the southeastern German state of Bavaria. Three A330 tankers and four A400M transporters took off from Cologne around 30 minutes prior.
During the three-day pilots will conduct almost 200 mid-air refueling maneuvers, said German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz. The deployment also includes detours to Japan and South Korea.
Since at least 2018, Berlin has committed itself to playing a security role in the Indo-Pacific, as has almost every other major Western power.
“Germany and the EU want to deepen their security engagement in the [Indo-Pacific] region in order to help strengthen the rules-based international order,” a German Foreign Ministry statement asserted ahead of Europe’s first Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum on February 22.
In August last year, a German frigate, Bayern, set sail for the Indo-Pacific for the first time in 20 years, docking in 11 countries during its seven-month voyage, including Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore. It was denied a port visit by China.
Gerhartz told reporters that the route taken by the jets will “barely touch” the South China Sea and won’t pass through the Taiwan Strait. The two areas are a source of tensions with Beijing.
“The South China Sea, Taiwan – these are obviously the sticking points in the region,” Gerhartz said. “We will fly at an altitude of more than 10 kilometers and barely touch the South China Sea, and we will move on international routes.”
Gerhartz added that he did not think Germany was “sending any threatening message towards China by flying to an exercise in Australia.”
Australia’s ambassador to Germany, Philip Green, said that there is no reason why China should see the exercise as destabilizing.
“We are seeking a region which will be stable, peaceful and prosperous, strategic equilibrium where each country can take their own sovereign choices,” Green said.
Tension between China and Western countries has risen in recent weeks following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be part of Chinese territory.