Today's D Brief: China's Taiwan wargames, cont.; Ukraine lessons for RIMPAC; Space war contingency planning; And a bit more.
China’s military is still cosplaying war around Taiwan, and state-run media said Sunday that this sort of thing will be happening “regularly” in the Taiwan Strait between the island and the mainland. The drills began Thursday, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, becoming the highest-ranking American official to do so since 1997.
Rewind: When Beijing first announced the reactionary wargames last week, that public plan involved four days of action across six surrounding target zones encircling Taiwan. Shortly afterward, the plan was updated to seven zones across five days. Taiwan officials have since eased flight restrictions across those original six zones, according to Reuters, reporting from Taipei on Monday. But now it’s unclear where or exactly when these newly-announced wargames—allegedly involving anti-submarine and amphibious assault operations—will take place or even come to an end.
From China’s point of view, “The current tensions across the Taiwan Strait has been a result of provocative acts single-handedly created by the U.S. side, for which the U.S. side must hold accountable and bear full responsibility for the serious consequences of it,” a spokesman for the military said Monday in Beijing.
For the record, China flew 66 aircraft near Taiwan on Sunday; 20 the day before that; and 49 on Friday. That’s according to Taiwan’s defense ministry.
From the White House’s POV, President Joe Biden threaded the needle somewhat when asked by reporters Monday about his concerns around Taiwan. “I'm not worried [about China’s wargames], but I'm concerned that they're moving as much [military equipment] as they are,” he told reporters, according to Monday’s pool reporter, Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News.
China says it’s carrying out several “countermeasures” in response to Pelosi’s visit, and those include “the cancellation of the arrangement of phone calls between the Chinese and U.S. military leaders at the theater command level, cancellation of working meetings between the defense departments of the two countries, and cancellation of the China-U.S. Maritime Military Safety Consultation Mechanism meetings,” according to Defense Ministry Spokesperson Wu Qian.
Wu also warned the U.S. against “any illusion of ‘containing China with Taiwan,’” and said China’s actions since Pelosi’s visit “are a necessary warning to the provocations made by the U.S. and Taiwan secessionist forces, and a legitimate defense of national sovereignty and security, completely reasonable and appropriate.”
Bigger picture: China is running out of “policy carrots” to entice Taiwan toward unification, the New York Times reported Sunday. However, “in increasingly democratic Taiwan, few see themselves as proud, future Chinese citizens.” And indeed, “Support for Beijing’s proposals sank even lower after 2020, when China imposed a crackdown on Hong Kong, eroding the freedoms that the former British colony was promised under its own version of the framework.” Read the rest, here.
A second opinion: “What Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan has really done is expose just how dangerous China has become to the stability of East Asia,” said Michael Schuman of the Atlantic Council.
By the way, Association of Southeast Asian Nations reps met last week in Cambodia, face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic began, but you probably wouldn’t have known it from all the fuss over Taiwan. Cambodian, Malaysian, and Thai diplomats all urged restraint and decorum, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday from the region.
Standing back and standing by: The American Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) aircraft carrier remains in the region near Taiwan monitoring events, the Wall Street Journal reported separately on Sunday. Sailors aboard “The Gipper” recently practiced a “mass casualty” event with medical personnel on the day China’s drills began. The U.S. Navy also seems to have a missile-tracking ship, the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25), nearby—heading eastbound from its present location southeast of Okinawa.
In about two months’ time, the U.S. and Indian militaries will exercise together roughly 60 miles from a disputed border with China, CNN reported Saturday. The location is Auli, which is about 10,000 feet above sea level; and the two nations are planning “high-altitude warfare training” as part of wider drills known as “Yudh Abhyas,” or “War Practice.” Read more, here.
From the region: The prime minister of the Solomon Islands ghosted the U.S. State Department’s #2 official on Sunday as she visited to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, Reuters reported Monday from Australia. The Associated Press has similar coverage, here.
- “Taiwan official leading missile production died of heart attack,” Reuters reported Saturday from Taipei;
- “A 70-Year-Old Taiwanese Chip Wizard Is Driving China’s Tech Ambitions,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday in a profile of Liang Mong Song;
- “One year after Afghanistan, spy agencies pivot toward China,” the Associated Press reported Monday;
- “‘Storm is gathering’ - Singapore PM warns of risk of U.S.-China miscalculation,” Reuters reported Monday from Singapore;
- And “U.S. Africa strategy stresses China, Russia threats,” via Reuters again, reporting Monday from Johannesburg; read over a White House fact sheet, here; or read the actual strategy document (PDF), here.
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Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1919, the “Durand Line” was used to define Afghanistan's eastern border with the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of the same year, finally and formally granting Afghanistan independence from the British empire.
Attention in Ukraine is turning again to Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, located in Zaporizhzhia, in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine. Alleged shelling has apparently “damaged three radiation sensors, with two workers hospitalized for shrapnel injuries,” according to Reuters.
Ukraine’s military says Russia has placed explosives at the plant in an attempt to head off a possible Ukrainian assault to retake the facilities, AP reports from Kyiv. And the head of the UN told reporters Monday that, “Any attack [on] a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing.”
Several more ships of grain have departed Ukraine, moving through the Black Sea and to a monitoring station in Istanbul. Four departed over the weekend; destinations include Italy and China. “Twenty million tonnes of grain are stuck in the country, as a result of the blockade imposed by Russia on Ukrainian ports,” according to the BBC. “If the deal holds, Ukraine expects to export up to three million tonnes of grain per month.”
Another $1 billion in U.S. weapons for Ukraine will be announced later today, including “HIMARS, NASAMS surface-to-air missile system ammunition and as many as 50 M113 armored medical transports,” Reuters reported Friday. A bit more on that, here.
- “Silicon Lifeline: Western Electronics at the Heart of Russia's War Machine,” via the Royal United Services Institute, based in the U.K.;
- And “Kremlin says China has the right to hold military drills around Taiwan,” Reuters reported late last week.
And finally: The U.S. Marine Corps has its first Black four-star general. Gen. Michael Langley was promoted Friday at Marine Barracks Washington; he’ll take command of U.S. Africa Command on Tuesday at a ceremony in Germany.
Langley was commissioned in 1985, and has served as deputy commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and as commander of Marine Forces Europe and Africa, and he deployed to Somalia with 1st Marine Division in support of Operation Restore Hope, as well as many other assignments, according to his official biography. He was nominated for the promotion in June.
RSVP: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will attend the AFRICOM ceremony, then travel to Latvia to meet with senior officials there.