0819: Chinese Intrusion into Taiwan’s ADIZ as Both Sides Stage Drills, U.S. Commitment to Taiwan Reaffirmed

China’s Warplanes Intrude into Taiwan’s ADIZ as Both Sides Stage Drills

China sent eleven military aircraft into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on August 17, as Taiwan’s military and its Chinese counterparts were staging separate drills near the area.

According to a report from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), the intruding Chinese warplanes were one Y-8 electric warfare aircraft, one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane, six J-16 multi-role fighters, and two H-6K bombers. All of the Chinese aircraft were spotted southwest of Taiwan, near the Dongsha Islands.

Although it has become almost a daily routine for Chinese military aircraft to intrude into Taiwan’s ADIZ over the past two years, the incursion on August 17 came at a sensitive time when Taiwanese warplanes and naval vessels were carrying out exercises southwest of Taiwan. The Taiwan Air Force responded by scrambling planes to monitor the intruding Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense assets, until the Chinese planes left the area.

On the same day, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted military assault drills southwest and southeast of Taiwan, using warships, anti-submarine aircraft, and fighter jets to improve their joint combat coordination. In a statement, the PLA claimed that to safeguard “Chinese sovereignty,” the drills were a necessary and solemn response to “external interference” by the United States and “provocations” by Taiwan independence forces.

Meanwhile, Su Tzu-yun, a senior analyst at Taiwan’s “Institute for National Defense and Security Research,” commented that the primary focus of China’s drills on that day was to rehearse the PLA’s actions to stop the U.S. forces from entering the South China Sea via the Bashi Channel, the waterway between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202108170029
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202108170026

U.S. National Security Advisor Reaffirms Commitment to Taiwan, While Experts Refute Parallels between Taiwan and Afghanistan

On August 17, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Taiwan amid concerns that the U.S. could abandon Taiwan and other allies to Chinese aggression after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We believe that our commitments to our allies and partners are sacrosanct and always have been. We believe our commitment to Taiwan and to Israel remains as strong as it’s ever been,” Sullivan said during a media briefing. He also emphasized that the situation in Afghanistan was wholly different from that of Taiwan. “When it comes to Taiwan, it is a fundamentally different question in a different context,” Sullivan said.

On August 18, in response to the comparisons between Taiwan and Afghanistan, Taiwan’s President Tsai-ing Wen stated that “Taiwan’s only option is to make itself stronger, more united, and more determined to defend itself.” “It is not an option to not make any effort and rely solely on the protection provided by others,” Tsai said. She added that “nor is it an option for us to count on the goodwill or mercy of those who do not . . . renounce the use of force against Taiwan,” an apparent reference to China.

Experts on Taiwan affairs also said that the situation in Afghanistan and the circumstances in Taiwan are significantly different.

“Taiwan and Afghanistan could not be more different,” Bonnie Glaser, an analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said. Taiwan and the U.S. have deep and historical ties and both share the same values, and the growing U.S. concerns over China’s ambitions in the region have “further strengthened the U.S. stake in Taiwan,” Glaser said.

Ian Easton, an analyst at The Project 2049 Institute, observed that the situation in Afghanistan would probably strengthen U.S.’ “resolve to ensure that no more friendly governments are overrun by the forces of oppression and darkness.” “Taiwan matters a thousand times more than Afghanistan” from the perspective of American national interests, laws, prestige, security posture and fundamental values, he added.

Taiwan “is a core interest for the U.S. in that it is a well-functioning democracy, loyal ally, [with] a capable military and directly standing up to America’s most important competitor,” said Robert Kelly, an international relations expert at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea. “Afghanistan was on the fringe of US interests. A better analogue … is Israel,” Kelly wrote on Twitter.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202108180010
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/08/19/2003762844
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202108180022