China and Taiwan tensions could get 'ugly' says expert
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The island nation has been locked in dispute with Xi Jinping’s communist superpower since its civil war ended in the 1950s. This cold war has recently heated up and has been dangerously close to boiling over in recent years.
The US has previously lambasted Beijing over its “provocative militarisation” of the contested region.
Things went up a notch on Tuesday when Taiwan began the first of six tests on cruise missiles capable of striking targets the Chinese coast and further inland.
They began just a day after China revealed it had conducted an amphibious landing exercise as part of its month-long drills in the South China Sea.
All this comes as the UK’s £3billion flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to pass through the hotly disputed South China Sea.
China’s defence ministry warned against the increase of military vessels in the area and called on nations to “stop provoking tensions”.
Another four rounds are scheduled between March 10 and 19, according to its Council of Agriculture and Taiwan Fisheries Agency.
The Hsiung Feng IIE surface-to-surface cruise missiles and Thunderbolt-2000 tactical rocket launcher will both be on display.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) said the missile tests have attracted the attention of China’s deep-sea scientific research vessel Dong Fang Hong 3.
In response, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said it held live-fire drills on the Pratas Island—also known as Dongsha.
It is also planning another exercise on Itu Aba, which Taiwan calls Taiping Island, on March 23.
Both South China Sea islands are claimed by China but currently administered by Taiwan.
The quarterly coast guard drills will coincide with other live-fire combat readiness exercises by Taiwan’s air force and navy throughout the month.
Observers said the tests and drills will have been planned far in advance so their timing was just a coincidence.
But China responded angrily and branded the exercises “military posturing”.
It also released footage showing its military carrying out drills.
Video footage included marines and a battle tank storming a beach which fueled speculation that Beijing is preparing to invade the island.
Both countries said they would be monitoring the activities of each others’ militaries closely.
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And if a conflict did erupt America, which is a long-standing ally of Taiwan, could likely be drawn in.
The South China Sea Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank, said US reconnaissance aircraft flew 75 sorties in the area in February.
The was an “uptick from the previous months,” the SCSPI reported.
It also noted the appearance of a Royal Australian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft in the sea.
The South China Sea is claimed by numerous countries including China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
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