China hounds Taiwan with ‘greysone’ war plane incursions

25-Oct-2021 Intellasia | AFP | 6:43 AM Print This Post

threat posed by these incursions should not be exaggerated.

The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace.

Instead it includes a larger area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even covers some of the mainland.

Nonetheless, it bears noting that until last year China very rarely crossed into the southwestern sector at all.

“These are part of what we call ‘greysone’ tactics, it keeps psychological pressure on Taiwan,” Lee Hsi-min, a retired admiral who stepped down as head of Taiwan’s armed forces in 2019, told AFP.

Greysone is a term used by military analysts to describe aggressive actions by a state that stop short of open warfare what British defence secretary Ben Wallace has described as “the limbo land between peace and war”.

Taiwan has seen a surge in these kinds of threats since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, whom China’s leaders loathe because she views the island as sovereign and not part of Beijing’s “one China”.

Lee cited greysone measures such as ramped up cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns to a massive increase in Chinese dredgers taking sand from waters surrounding Kinmen and Matsu, two Taiwanese islands just a few kilometres from the mainland.

The ADIZ incursions, he added, allowed China to “improve pilot training”, including the occasional night-time sorties, as well as test Taiwan’s own defences.

They also keep Taiwan’s already ageing fleet of fighters under stress. There have been multiple fatal crashes blamed on mechanical failures.

‘Perfect storm’

China, which has vowed to one day seize Taiwan, says little about its ADIZ incursions.

But analysts say they send a message to three targets: Taiwan’s government and people, China’s increasingly nationalist domestic audience, and western powers.

This month’s record incursions came after naval exercises in the Pacific attended by multiple navies, including two US and one British aircraft carriers and a Japanese helicopter destroyer.

It also came after Washington’s recent deal to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia and confirmation that US special forces were training Taiwanese troops.

“Beijing wants to demonstrate that it will not be intimidated by regional security alliances in the making, which undoubtedly are aimed at China,” J Michael Cole, an expert with the Washington-based Global Taiwan Institute.

“(It) also demonstrates to a domestic audience that it is not complacent about developments that favour Taiwan,” he told AFP.

The United States has long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards Taiwan, selling it arms without explicitly promising to come to the island’s help.

But President Joe Biden has now twice stated that US forces would defend Taiwan’s people if China made a move on them.

While the ADIZ incursions remain far out to sea, many fear the rise in sorties increases the risk of a crash, collision or mistake that could spark a wider war.

President Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong, has made seizing Taiwan a key pledge as he engineers a third term push next year.

China’s increased forcefulness has prompted US and Taiwanese officials to publicly warn that Beijing could be ready to invade in just a few years.

Jia Qingguo, an international relations expert at Peking University who advises the Chinese government, published a stark paper earlier this summer in which he warned a “perfect storm” was brewing in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing’s more aggressive treatment of Taiwan in recent years was “shaped by its growing military capabilities and increasing domestic demands for unification,” he argued.

China also feels pressured to act now against the growing relationship between Taiwan and the United States, where defending Taipei has become a rare bipartisan issue.

“The three sides have seen their interactions caught in a vicious spiral, making a military confrontation and even an all-out war an increasingly likely scenario,” Jia warned.

Su Tzu-yun, a military expert at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said Taipei “should be more vigilant but it needn’t be over-worried”.

An amphibious landing across the Taiwan Strait, he told AFP, still remains “the most complex military operation and if any part of the process is undermined, the operation would fail”.

“(China) could start a war but whether it could win it is a different thing,” he added.


Category: China, Taiwan

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