|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Chinese Military Agression
China Flies Warplanes Near Taiwan as Senior U.S. Diplomat Visits
Chao Deng and Chun Han Wong
TAIPEI—Beijing flew military aircraft close to Taiwan on a day that a
senior American diplomat met with Taiwan’s president as part of a series
of recent U.S. moves to improve ties with the self-ruled island.
Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, the highest-ranking State
Department official to visit the island since Washington cut formal ties
with Taipei four decades ago, expressed U.S. support for deeper
cooperation at a dinner Friday evening hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen,
her office said.
The Trump administration has pushed to further relationships with Taiwan
as tensions grow with Beijing over technology, trade and global
influence. The status of the island, which Beijing considers part of
Chinese territory, is one of the most sensitive issues between the U.S.
and China. Beijing sees high-level U.S. interactions with Taiwanese
officials as provocations.
Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, left, met with President Tsai
Ing-wen, center, and other top officials in Taiwan, a meeting criticized
Photo: taiwan presidential office hando/Shutterstock
The State Department said earlier this week Mr. Krach’s trip was to
attend a memorial service honoring former President Lee Teng-hui, who
died in July. Mr. Lee’s legacy of helping Taiwan transition to a
multiparty democracy gave the U.S. and Taiwan an opportunity to
highlight shared political values around democracy, a point emphasized
in statements from both sides.
Hours before the meeting, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it scrambled
jet fighters after at least 18 Chinese aircraft crossed the so-called
median line in the Taiwan Strait that roughly marks the halfway point
between the island and mainland China.
China said its military exercises near the Taiwan Strait on Friday were
necessary to safeguard its national sovereignty, citing recent
interactions between Taiwan and the U.S.
“Whether it’s attempting to control China through Taiwan or trying to
tap foreign forces to boost oneself, it’s all wishful thinking,” Chinese
Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Ren Guoqiang said at a news
briefing in Beijing. “Those who play with fire will burn themselves.”
The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported this week that
the Trump administration is poised to sell billions of dollars in
weapons to Taiwan to ratchet up political and military pressure against
China. The U.S. has already sold about $15 billion in arms to Taiwan,
surpassing roughly $14 billion over the course of the Obama administration.
Also this week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft and
Taiwan’s top official in New York met for an outdoor lunch on
Manhattan’s East Side. Ms. Craft told the Associated Press that James
K.J. Lee, the director of Taiwan’s economic and cultural office in New
York, had proposed a meeting, having recently arrived in New York after
serving as secretary-general in Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Krach is the second high-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in
two months. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar traveled
to the island in August, becoming the most senior U.S. official to visit
Taiwan since the U.S. established formal diplomatic ties with China in 1979.
Before his meeting with Ms. Tsai on Friday, Mr. Krach met senior
Taiwanese officials, including the premier as well as the economic and
foreign ministers, to discuss economic issues and bilateral cooperation,
according to government statements.
Taiwan is looking to sign a free-trade agreement with the U.S. and
cleared a major obstacle last month by easing restrictions on U.S. beef
and pork imports.
Mr. Krach is set to attend a memorial service Saturday for Mr. Lee,
hailed by admirers as the “father of democracy” in Taiwan for
dismantling the authoritarian regime established by Chiang Kai-shek’s
Chinese Nationalist government, which gained control of the island in
1945 following the end of World War II.
China’s Communist Party has sought to take over Taiwan since Mao Zedong
seized power on the mainland in 1949, and Beijing has refused to rule
out the use of military force.
On Wednesday, the day before Mr. Krach arrived in Taipei, the People’s
Liberation Army sent two anti-submarine military aircraft into the
island’s southwest air-defense identification zone, according to
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, which said it had sent signals for Beijing to
back off. In response to the Chinese sorties on Friday, Taiwan’s Defense
Ministry also issued radio warnings and deployed an air-defense missile
system for monitoring. It urged restraint by China, which it said was
alienating the people of Taiwan with acts of military intimidation.
The latest Chinese drills added to a series of PLA activities near
Taiwan, some of which Beijing has openly described as designed to signal
its determination to assert its claims over the island.
Last week, Taiwan’s defense and foreign ministries criticized Beijing
for conducting large-scale aerial and maritime joint exercises southwest
of Taiwan for two straight days, characterizing the drills as
provocative gestures. Since then, the Defense Ministry has started
releasing detailed statements on Chinese warplane activities near
Taiwan, including breakdowns of specific aircraft types and maps showing
their flight paths.
Beijing has protested Mr. Krach’s visit. In a regular news briefing
Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned the U.S.
and Taiwan to stop official exchanges.
Write to Chao Deng at Chao.Deng-at-wsj.com and Chun Han Wong at
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