As Taiwan’s Lai visits U.S., the USS Reagan monitors PLA’s response

FPI / August 16, 2023


By Richard Fisher

On Aug. 12 and 13 Taiwan’s Vice President Lai Ching-te (William) visited New York City, departing for Paraguay on the evening of the 13th, and guess what, the world did not end.

USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Robert Smalls and USS Antietam, and the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Perth in the Indian Ocean, on July 22, 2023. / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Brown

Vice President William Lai is also the nominee of Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the current front-runner for Taiwan’s next presidential election in January 2024.

The concern is that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will use Vice President Lai’s visit to New York, and then his return visit to San Francisco on the 16th, as an excuse to execute another massive coercive military exercise, as did to protest the August 2022 visit to Taiwan of then Speaker of the U.S. House of Representative Nancy Pelosi, and then to protest Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit last April to the United States.

After weeks of complaining about Lai’s visit in its state media, on Aug. 13 the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that China “will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and called Lai “a troublemaker through and through” who “clings stubbornly to the separatist position for ‘Taiwan independence.’”

But the reality of Lai’s visit is that it is “low key” with no visit to Washington D.C., as was suggested earlier by opposition Kuomintang sources. An avid baseball fan, late on Aug. 13 Lai and Taiwan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Hsaio Bi-khim attended a Mets game and ate hot dogs.

But for such gestures the CCP cast you as a “troublemaker” and justifies largescale coercive military demonstrations against Taiwan.

Veteran Taipei-based journalist Wendell Minnick reminds in his China In Arms blog on Substack, Aug. 16 to Sept. 19 is “Ghost Month” in the Chinese lunar calendar, a month when the seas of the Taiwan Strait are at their calmest and best suited for military action.

The April 8 to 10 Joint Sword exercises saw the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deploy 232 combat aircraft around Taiwan over three days and saw the first coordinated use of PLA Air Force aircraft and fighters from the PLA Navy aircraft carrier Shandong.

But the CCP is using these exercises to prepare for war.

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