The Chinese navy has the ability to blockade Taiwan, but doing so could prompt a coordinated response by the international community to intervene to resolve the crisis for Taiwan, US Vice Admiral Karl Thomas said.
“Clearly if they do something that’s non-kinetic, which, you know, a blockade is less kinetic ... then that allows the international community to weigh in and to work together on how we’re going to solve that challenge,” the commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Monday.
While he could not predict whether China would launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan or blockade the nation, it was his job to be ready for all eventualities, he said.
Following a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei on Aug. 2 and 3, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched live-fire military exercises in six maritime zones around Taiwan, firing 11 ballistic missiles into waters surrounding the nation.
The “irresponsible” act showed that China was pushing the boundaries further to “see what they can get away with,” Thomas said.
Following the exercises, China has made dozens of incursions near Taiwan during which PLA aircraft or ships crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had served as a tacit boundary before last month’s military exercises.
China’s latest actions are an extension of its “might makes right” mentality, Thomas said.
Asked why the plane carrying Pelosi avoided the South China Sea and followed a circuitous path to Taiwan, Thomas said that it was done to avoid provoking China, which has militarized artificial islands in the region.
The decision was made “at high levels” amid warnings from Beijing that a visit by Pelosi could have consequences, he added.
China, which has the world’s largest navy by size, is building warships at a faster rate than the US, although the US Navy, with more advanced warships and a larger aircraft carrier fleet, still has a qualitative edge, Thomas said.
The PLA has also been addressing a lack of coordination between its different branches, which had been seen as weaknesses, he said, adding that aircraft from China’s air force now fly above bodies of water, while in 2018 only aircraft from its navy conducted such flights.
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