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US urged not to test Beijing's patience on Taiwan

By Zhang Zhihao | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-07-21 09:46
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Photo taken on July 21, 2019 from Xiangshan Mountain shows the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taipei, China's Taiwan. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United States is on a "perilous collision course" with China by incrementally expanding economic, diplomatic and military exchanges with Taiwan, which has severely undermined China's sovereignty as well as peace and stability in the region, experts said.

They said the US is using a "salami-slicing" tactic to probe China's bottom line on the Taiwan question through a series of small but increasingly provocative actions, including developing formal economic and high-level official exchanges with Taiwan, selling it more advanced offensive weapons, landing military aircraft on the island, and bolstering Taiwan's presence on the world stage.

Experts said many of these actions, though seemingly inconsequential at first, would eventually add up and profoundly change the security situation across the Taiwan Straits. They warned that Washington should refrain from testing Beijing's patience and stop such tactics, otherwise it would be responsible for any conflict stemming from its actions.

On Monday, a civilian variant of the US military's C-130 transport aircraft landed in Taiwan to unload cargo before quickly taking off. It was the second delivery mission of its kind following one by a US Air Force C-146A transport aircraft on Thursday that triggered strong protests from the Chinese mainland.

Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement in response to the Thursday landing that the US should not play with fire and should stop sending the wrong messages to Taiwan separatist forces.

"Any violation of our airspace by foreign ships and planes will lead to serious consequences," he said. "Nobody should underestimate the Chinese people's adamant determination, unshakable will and formidable capability in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Luo Fuqiang, a retired senior colonel and military commentator, said in an analysis that the US is carefully testing China's red line with "salami-slicing" tactics to avoid risking full retaliation.

He said the US should heed China's solemn warnings, citing a close encounter in 2014 between a Chinese J-11 fighter jet and a US P-8 maritime patrol aircraft in the South China Sea.

A senior military relations expert who requested anonymity said the US is fully aware that a military conflict with China over Taiwan is unnecessary and would be catastrophic, but the current US administration is hoping to reestablish credibility in the world, and with that comes new expectations that Washington will find difficult to manage.

"The US is trying to strike a delicate balance between gradually and comprehensively increasing its support for Taiwan, so that it can have more geopolitical leverage against the Chinese mainland, but also doesn't want Taiwan separatists to get their hopes up to a point where military confrontation with the Chinese mainland is inevitable," the expert said.

"One of the biggest reasons behind the US' internationalization of the Taiwan question is to distribute risk among its regional allies, so the US alone doesn't have to bear the full might of the Chinese military and shoulder the dire responsibility and consequence of defending Taiwan."

Washington believes Beijing might think twice if countries like Japan and Australia step in, "but this is wishful thinking by the US", the expert said.

"China is the only major power in the world that is not unified," the expert said. "Western observers have always had a difficult time comprehending the historical weight of this fact. The Chinese people's staunch determination for reunification and rejuvenation should not be questioned or underestimated."

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