Chinese warn again over Taiwan; US stays the course

Chinese warn again over Taiwan; US stays the course

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is greeted by an honor guard at the People's Liberation Army (Navy) headquarters in Beijing on Monday. (MCC Elliott Fabrizio/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — Chinese officials told the Pentagon’s top Navy official that “no outside interference will be tolerated” in Beijing’s quest to reoccupy Taiwan.

Chinese General Li Zuocheng, a member of the Central Military Commission, said the Chinese military will support its sovereignty claims to Taiwan “at any cost” and it has a swath of actions ready should the U.S. intervene, according to reports in the Chinese media.

“The Taiwan issue is an internal matter of China, concerns China’s fundamental interests and the national feelings of the Chinese people, and no outside interference will be tolerated,” Li Zuocheng told visiting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, comments later released in a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Defense, according to news reports. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will defend the unity of the motherland at any cost.”

A U.S. Navy spokesperson confirmed the nature of the comments on background to TMN.

(The Associated Press is reporting that Taiwan “held live-fire exercises along its east coast Thursday amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.”)

China’s warning came one day after the Defense Intelligence Agency released an unclassified report outlining significant advances of the Chinese military in almost every area.

Critically, the DIA assessment said the gains in arms and capabilities have convinced and emboldened Chinese leadership to believe they are capable of winning regional conflicts, with Taiwan atop that list, followed by defense of holdings in the South China Sea second.

Beijing denounced the DIA report, according to multiple news reports.

Richardson, who is the Navy’s representative on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent four days in China this week. The stated purpose of his visit — the second he has made to the country in his post — was to “continue a results-oriented, risk reduction focused dialogue between the two militaries,” a Navy statement said.

Beijing is angry over the increased warmth between Washington and Taiwan under the Trump administration. Taiwan — a cluster of islands — considers itself an independent nation, while Beijing considers it a wayward province that eventually will be folded back into the mainland’s control.

Of equal tension is the escalating cat-and-mouse naval exercises in the South China Sea and, to a lesser extent, East China Sea. China has occupied islands and outcroppings in both seas and has militarized some, despite territorial claims from other nations.

The U.S. and other nations have increased sailings around the contested islands and through the Taiwan straits as part of freedom of navigation operations. The Pentagon also sends bombers on overflights of the region under the same principle.

On Monday, USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Island chain — one of the areas of significant Chinese occupation — to “challenge excessive maritime claims,” the Navy said in a statement.

“The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all,” Richardson said in the statement. “This will not change. Enhancing the prosperity of all is the direct result of a secure and orderly maritime domain.”

The Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll joined the U.S.’ guided missile destroyer for some of the sailings in the South China Sea.

Britain also announced that it will seek to establish a naval base in southeast Asia, with possible locations including Singapore and Brunei, according to news reports.

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