China, Russia war drills spark alarm


American spy planes have been deployed to keep watch on large-scale war games being conducted by Beijing and Moscow.

    Massive war games involving Russian and Chinese military forces have sparked alarm and prompted the Untied States to send spy planes to keep watch.

    A pair of Boeing RC-135 aircraft flew across the Black Sea and around the coast of the annexed Crimea in Ukraine overnight, radar trackers show.

    It came in response to Beijing sending two dozen military planes into Taiwanese air space, in the strongest show of force towards the disputed territory in more than a year.

    At the same time, Moscow’s navy carried out missile-firing drills off Crimea, including its advanced Bastion coastal defence system.

    China and Russia are long-time allies and have grown increasingly close in recent times, as relations with the West have deteriorated.

    Their respective war games were in response to Ukraine holding military exercises with the US, and Taiwan continuing its bid to join a trans-Pacific trade partnership.

    China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and President Xi Jinping has vowed to bring it under the country’s control, using force if necessary.

    Vladimir Putin ordered the annexing of the Crimean peninsula from Russia in 2014 and Moscow supported pro-Russian militia in the war-torn Donbas region.

    Massive manoeuvres spark alarm

    On Thursday, Russian naval forces carried out significant exercises in the Black Sea and along the coast, with ground crews carrying out strikes with missiles from concealed positions.

    Drones were also used to track a simulated group of enemy ships, the country’s Defence Ministry confirmed in a statement.

    Simultaneously, 19 Chinese aircraft, including 12 J-16 fighters, two J-11 jets, two H-6 bombers, two anti-submarine aircraft and an electronic warfare aircraft, breached Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

    Taipei said a second flyover involving two J-16s, two J-11s and a KJ-500 early warning aircraft also entered the ADIZ on Thursday afternoon.

    Beijing sending military aircraft into Taiwanese airspace isn’t an unusual occurrence, with breaches of the ADIZ happening on an almost daily basis.

    But the scale of this flyover is significant.

    Usually, exercises involve only a handful of aircraft and larger displays are typically a sign of Beijing’s anger about perceived threats.

    Thursday’s show of force was the largest since July 2020, when 28 warplanes flew over Taiwan in response to a statement from the G7 group of nations calling for peace between Taipei and Beijing.

    New drills sparked by anger

    China’s flyovers on Thursday were seen to be in response to Taiwan formally applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

    The grouping links a number of nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and Vietnam, to strike deals on labour movement and trade markets access.

    “We firmly oppose any country having official exchanges with Taiwan and firmly oppose the Taiwan region’s accession to any official treaties or organisations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

    Beijing is also seeking to join the CPTPP, which Taipei says is mostly an attempt to roadblock its membership.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine is in the middle of joint military exercises with the US, which will run until the end of September.

    Some 4000 Ukrainian troops have joined with 2000 foreign forces from the US and NATO allies in what’s seen as a push-back against Moscow.

    “I believe that each of you will concentrate all your knowledge, all your efforts in order to show the aggressor countries that they have no chance,” Ihor Palahniuk, training commander of Ukraine’s forces, said.

    In a statement, the US military said the drill included a brigade combat unit from the Washington National Guard and troops from 12 other countries.

    The goal is to “enhance interoperability among allied and partner nations” and improve “readiness”.

    Beijing testing the West’s patience

    China’s increasingly aggressive stance on the global stage has raised concern about its imminent military movements.

    Analysts say President Xi Jinping has backed himself into a corner when it comes to key goals like the reunification of Taiwan.

    “Xi has gone so far down the road of militarisation of the South China Sea and the promise of China greatness, China’s rise to hegemony in the Indo-Pacific, and essentially the recovery of Taiwan, that he can’t seriously moderate … without falling from power or risking it, Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, told CNBC.

    Beijing’s bolshie approach has been met with resistance as the era of diplomacy for the sake of economic ties appears to be coming to an end.

    That is especially the case with Australia, long a quiet and agreeable partner.

    “Australia’s push-back [to a trade war] surprised China,” Duy Trinh from Princeton University’s Niehaus Centre for Globalisation and Governance told CNBC.

    “So did India’s assertiveness at the border. I think it speaks to … some elements of the Chinese Communist Party that their hawkish stance in recent years has been challenged, and quite resolutely challenged, by other countries. It’s not something they can just do for free.”

    But at a time when nations like Taiwan are relying on their defence partnerships with the US, Washington seems to be realigning its foreign policy approach.

    John Bolton, a former national security adviser and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that the bungled retreat from Afghanistan had huge implications for allies.

    “One major misjudgment underlying the ‘ending endless wars’ mantra was that withdrawing affected only Afghanistan,” Mr Bolton wrote.

    “To the contrary, the departure constitutes a major, and deeply regrettable US strategic realignment. China and Russia, our main global adversaries, are already seeking to reap advantages.

    “They and many others judge Afghanistan’s abandonment not simply on its direct consequences for global terrorist threats, but also for what it says about US objectives, capabilities and resolve worldwide.”

    Beijing and Moscow see it as a warning sign for countries like Taiwan that perhaps they can’t rely as strongly on America as they thought.

    – with The Sun and Reuters

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