In a surprise move, the Biden White House ordered a U.S. carrier strike group to remain near Taiwan longer than initially planned, because China is “overreacting” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.
On Thursday, on the heels of a visit to Taiwan conducted by California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the Biden administration surprised China by announcing that the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was going to remain in the region.
The decision to leave the naval strike group in the area was made in response to China’s belligerent military exercises and missile launches aimed at threatening an invasion of Taiwan.
Biden National Security Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby appeared during a White House press briefing Thursday to explain what the USS Ronald Reagan would be doing in the area and why it was remaining longer than anticipated.
According to the White House transcript of the briefing, Kirby began his comments by saying, “overnight, the People’s Republic of China launched an estimated 11 ballistic missiles towards Taiwan, which impacted to the northeast, the east, and southeast of the island.”
“We condemn these actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our longstanding goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the region,” Kirby added.
“China has chosen to overreact and use the Speaker’s visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait,” he exclaimed.
Kirby said the U.S. anticipated China’s ramping up of its belligerence in the area, but he added that the U.S. won’t be cowed.
“The United States is prepared for what Beijing chooses to do. We will not seek, nor do we want, a crisis,” Kirby explained. “At the same time, we will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific, consistent with international law, as we have for decades, supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The carrier group is Biden’s answer to that belligerence.
“We will conduct standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks, consistent, again, with our longstanding approach to defending freedom of the seas and international law,” Kirby insisted. “And we will take further steps to demonstrate our commitment to the security of our allies in the region, and that includes Japan.”
Kirby also said that “Beijing’s provocative actions are a significant escalation in its longstanding attempt to change the status quo.”
After his prepared remarks, Kirby was asked if there was a diplomatic means to ending China’s military incursions in the region.
“Well, we certainly would like to see the tensions deescalate. And if that’s best done through diplomacy, the United States would fully support that. We want to see the tensions come down,” Kirby replied.
But Kirby went on to claim that the onus was on the Chinese, not Biden or Taiwan.
“I would submit to you that they can come down very easily by just having the Chinese stop these … very aggressive military drills and flying missiles in and around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said. “You don’t need diplomacy to just simply stop doing something that’s … escalating the tensions and putting peace and security in the region at risk.”
Location (as of yesterday) of 3 US Navy carrier/expeditionary strike groups—USS Ronald Reagan, USS Tripoli & USS America —currently operating in Asian waters around 🇹🇼.
Map also shows the locations of the 2 Chinese PLA Navy carriers: Liaoning & Shandong. (via @IndoPac_Info) pic.twitter.com/2YoHZS4R41
— Franz-Stefan Gady (@HoansSolo) August 4, 2022
But he also seemed to say that Biden’s reply to China could be short-lived.
“Look, the Ronald Reagan and her escort ships are a very capable strike group. They’re there to monitor the situation. They’ll be there for a little bit longer than they were originally planned to be there,” he said.
So, perhaps a bit of a mixed message. Still, it won’t be a move that is met with much appreciation by the Chinese government, regardless.
Instead of ramping down, though, it appears China is increasing its military presence in the area. According to the Chinese-run media outlet Global Times, China has added an aircraft carrier group of its own and a nuclear-powered sub to its military exercises.
China also launched at least five more missiles over the Taiwan Straits.
China firing long range rockets from Fujian across Taiwan Strait pic.twitter.com/N2trr4gjft
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) August 4, 2022
One or more of China’s missiles apparently fell inside an economic zone claimed by Japan, spurring the Japanese government to lodge a diplomatic complaint.
FLASH: 5 ballistic missiles launched by China fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone during military drills near Taiwan. Japan lodged a diplomatic protest in response. Take a look:pic.twitter.com/LXBxEB3Q5j
— Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) August 4, 2022
The state-run Global Times noted further that China is, indeed, using “diplomatic” means to address this week’s situation, but not by ramping down, as Biden hoped. Instead, the government in Beijing is increasing economic sanctions against Taiwan.
“Starting on Wednesday, Chinese mainland customs authorities suspended the entry of citrus fruits including grapefruits, lemons and oranges, as well as two types of fish (chilled large head hairtail and frozen horse mackerel) from the island, in accordance with regulations and food safety requirements,” the paper reported.
So far, at least, Biden’s efforts to send the U.S. carrier group, coupled with increased spy plane missions to observe and record China’s military exercises, have done little to deter China for this latest spate of saber-rattling over its claims that it owns Taiwan.
But it does, at least, show that the U.S. is not slinking away immediately after Pelosi’s visit to the region ended.
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