Dennis P. Halpin
It is in the national interest of the United States and other like-minded democracies to counter Beijing’s crude attempts to bully its neighbors.
As East Asia and the world continue to turn their attention toward the escalating nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Beijing has taken advantage of the distraction to move forward its agenda of a “China Dream” of regional hegemony. This dream envisions a China restored to what is viewed as Beijing’s rightful place of domination of the Asian continent while American economic and military power and prestige recede back across the Pacific.
Taiwan has long been the ultimate prize for Chinese military irredentists. Just two weeks ago, Beijing demonstrated its contempt for Taiwan by launching new civilian air routes in the Taiwan Strait (the northbound M503 flight route along with three east-west extension routes—W121, W122 and W123) without any prior consultations with Taipei. The M503 route is close to the Taipei Flight Information Region (Taipei FIR) while the western routes pass by defensive positions on Kinmen and Matsu, Taiwan’s offshore islands. The Taipei FIR provides services for nearly 1.5 million civilian flights annually which carry nearly sixty million passengers, including over half-a-million American travelers.
Beijing’s latest arbitrary and unilateral action also runs counter to the assurances given in the March 2015 agreement between the Taipei Airlines Association and the China Air Transport Association. Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen immediately tweeted her strong response, and pledged that Taiwan will continue to “safeguard the status quo” while calling on “all parties to do the same.”
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