2024-0208: China Named as “Enemy” in Japan-U.S. Military Exercise; U.S. State Department Slams China’s “Unilateral” Flight Path Change

China Named as “Hypothetical Enemy” for First Time in Japan-U.S. Military Exercise

The Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military named China as a “hypothetical enemy” for the first time in their joint command post exercise, Japanese government sources said on February 4, amid rising concerns over a potential invasion of Taiwan by China in the future.

This year’s “Keen Edge” computer simulation exercise, which began on February 1 and concludes on February 8, envisions a Taiwan emergency as the main scenario.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense is believed to have classified the scenario as a specially designated secret under Japan’s secrecy law.

A provisional name was previously used when referring to an enemy. However, Kyodo News cited Japanese government officials as saying that China was the hypothetical enemy for this year’s exercise.

The move reflects a heightened sense of urgency as concerns grow that China would invade Taiwan within the next few years amid increasing geopolitical tensions.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said in February last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping had instructed China’s military to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027.

“Keen Edge” is a command post training exercise in which Japanese and U.S. forces employ computer simulations to practice responses in the event of a crisis or contingency.

Japan and the U.S. have drawn up several joint operation plans envisioning possible emergencies, with a draft regarding a Taiwan contingency being completed at the end of last year.

The results of the current “Keen Edge” exercise will be reflected in the final plans to be compiled by the end of this year, while troops are expected to perform a live-action demonstration of the “Keen Sword” drill near Japan around 2025 to verify its efficacy.

In previous exercises, Japan and the U.S. used maps that slightly differed from the topography of actual countries to avoid a backlash in the event the plans were leaked, but the current exercise switched to unaltered maps.

Japan and the U.S. began conducting joint drills in 1986, with the two countries holding “Keen Edge” and “Keen Sword” exercises roughly every other year.

[1] Kyodo News: https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2024/02/47012e046105-china-named-as-hypothetical-enemy-for-1st-time-in-japan-us-exercise.html
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/02/06/2003813148

U.S. State Department Slams China’s “Unilateral” Flight Path Change Against Taiwan

On February 1, the U.S. Department of State condemned China’s unilateral alteration of the M503 flight path to come closer to the Taiwan Strait’s median line, saying the U.S. opposes any unilateral changes to the cross-strait status quo.

A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. urged China to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in “meaningful dialogue” with Taiwan.

“Issues related to civil aviation and safety in the Taiwan Strait should be decided through dialogue between both sides,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also reiterated that the U.S. opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo across the Taiwan Straits by either side.

China’s Civil Aviation Administration announced on January 30 that it was canceling the M503 flight route’s “offset measure” agreed to with Taiwan in 2015.

As a result, the flight route, used mostly by Chinese airlines but also by some foreign airlines on flights between China and Southeast Asia, will revert to its original path, coming as close as 4.2 nautical miles (7.78 km) to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwanese experts raised concerns over China’s move, saying it was an act of “legal warfare” to deny the existence of the median line and the legal presence of Taiwan.

Meanwhile, on February 1, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also condemned China’s recent aggressive action against Taiwan.

In a statement on X, Rep. McCaul said that “between military fly-bys and now civilian flights close to the median line, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] continues to threaten Taiwan and unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.”

“We must stand with Taiwan against this aggression,” he added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202402020005
[2] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/5089374