US playing Taiwan card risky

By Zhang Hui and Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/1 19:23:43

Two PLA jets allegedly cross Taiwan Straits ‘middle line’

Two PLA J-11 fighter jets take off from a military airfield for training mission. Photo:

 The alleged flight crossing the "middle line" of the Taiwan Straits by two People's Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jets could be a strong response to "Taiwan independence" forces and the US, who increasingly plays the card of the island to provoke the mainland, analysts said.

If the US and the island of Taiwan upgrade their provocative actions, the mainland's fly-through could become routine and the "middle line" could become history, said a mainland military expert who asked not to be named.

The island of Taiwan scrambled aircraft to drive away two J-11 fighter jets from the mainland which allegedly crossed the "middle line" of the Taiwan Straits on Sunday, with Taiwan calling the mainland's possible move "provocative" actions which "seriously impact regional safety and stability," according to Taiwan's Military News Agency.

Although there was no immediate response from the mainland authority, many Chinese mainland netizens said on social media and forums that they hope the J-11s did cross the middle line. 

"Middle line? What middle line? We are all in Chinese territory, we come and go as we want," read typical comments.

The anonymous military expert told the Global Times that the "middle line" is only a psychological line which separates the Taiwan Straits, and neither side usually crosses the line. But there is no such line and both sides are Chinese territory, plus the Chinese mainland has never recognized the line. 

The possible fly-through by J-11 fighter jets sent a strong signal that no one can touch the bottom line of China on the Taiwan question, not "Taiwan independence" forces, not the US, which is attempting to strengthen its ties with Taiwan, experts said. 

"As a matter of fact, Taiwan is not worth targeting anymore. All of our military strength [shown] is used to tell the US to stop where it should stop. The island of Taiwan causes trouble because the US supports it. When the US calms down, it will calm down," an anonymous mainland expert on the Taiwan question told the Global Times.

This year, the US has sent warships through the Taiwan Straits three times, with the latest being the US Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Bertholf on March 24. 

The Trump administration also reportedly gave its tacit approval to Taiwan's request to buy more than 60 US-made F-16 fighter jets (A formal request would still need US congressional approval), and the US has not sold advanced fighter jets to Taiwan since 1992, Bloomberg reported.

The US and Taiwan's frequent interactions will not stop there, as experts predict that the US will conduct more activities, such as sending high-level officials to Taiwan to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act this month. 

Sixteen bipartisan US senators sent a letter last month to US President Donald Trump, asking him to send a cabinet-level official to Taiwan to attend an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act,  media reported. 

This came after the passage of two US bills - the Taiwan Travel Act and Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018 - last year, which the US is using to suppress China. 

Bargaining chips

"The US has been playing the Taiwan card in a more radical way lately, and such risky actions may result in a heavy blow to overall China-US relations," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times.

The Taiwan question is the core question that would impact on China-US relations, and any problems on it will slow down the settlement of other issues between China and the US, including ongoing trade negotiations, experts warned.

The Taiwan question, together with human rights, Huawei and the trade issue are important cards the Trump administration plays to pressure China, and those cards may be related to each other, Li noted. "The US may also use Taiwan as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China, but such tricks won't work." 

After eight rounds of trade talks, the focus of the talks has been narrowed to very specific questions, and China will not drop its bottom line on its sovereignty.  

Further actions by the mainland could possibly see mainland warplanes flying across the island of Taiwan, the anonymous expert on Taiwan question said. "We have not done that for now because the hope of a peaceful solution to the Taiwan question still exists," and if the mainland decides to do so, the island and the US will have absolutely no way to stop it.

The report also coincided with the 18th anniversary of the Hainan Island incident on April 1, 2001, when PLA Navy pilot Wang Wei's J-8II fighter jet collided with a US EP-3 signals intelligence aircraft above China's exclusive economic zone southeast of Hainan Island.

Remembering Wang's death, netizens noted the mainland's significant military development over the years and the PLA's determination to safeguard the country. 

"Today we won't have another tragedy like Wang's J-8II since the motherland is becoming much more powerful, and the hero can rest in peace," a netizen said on Sina Weibo. 


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