‘See whether the PLA will launch a targeted air strike to eliminate those U.S. invaders!’ the chief of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda outlet threatened on Thursday.
Leaders in China almost immediately expressed outrage Thursday at a new report indicating the U.S. has secretly stationed forces on Taiwan in an attempt to bolster the island nation’s defenses against the increasing likelihood of an attack from the mainland.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that a small unit of special operations forces have been based in Taiwan for at least a year to train local military forces – a move China has previously said would violate contentious agreements between Washington and Beijing that have maintained a fragile security understanding regarding Taiwan for decades. Asian outlets first reported last year the possible presence of Marines there.
“Why just two dozen members? Why secretly? The US should send 240 servicemen publicly, in US military uniform, and make public where they are stationed,” Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of China’s English language Global Times, considered a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, wrote in a tweet accompanying the Journal’s article. He added of China’s military, “See whether the PLA will launch a targeted air strike to eliminate those US invaders!”
China has previously indicated it would retaliate swiftly and immediately to any indication the U.S. had deployed military forces to Taiwan. When Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, claimed without explanation in August that the U.S. had roughly 30,000 forces on Taiwan, state news in Beijing fired back that, if true, the Chinese military would “crush them by force.”
What have previously been downplayed as idle threats have taken on new potency in recent days, following China’s steady deployment of aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone on an unprecedented scale. Dozens of warplanes entered Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone – technically outside the island’s self-described airspace – on Friday and Saturday, the date of China’s annual celebration marking the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, followed by more than 50 on Monday, almost doubling the scale of its largest previous provocation in June.
The latest round of threats comes at a particularly contentious time for relations between China and the U.S., which in many ways have arrived at an all time low following the combative economic and diplomatic policies of the Trump administration and Beijing’s increased aggressiveness in recent months. U.S. defense officials earlier this year warned that China may try to invade Taiwan in as little as six years, seizing territory it claims as a renegade province of the mainland. Pentagon planners have begun referring to the island as “Fortress Taiwan.”
Since the latest aerial incursions, Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, has said a full-scale attack may now come as soon as 2025.
It was not immediately clear whether the latest news would affect some signs of thawing in relations between the Biden administration and President Xi Jinping’s government. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, met with his Chinese counterparts in Zurich, Switzerland earlier this week, their first gathering since tense talks in Anchorage, Alaska in March.
Beijing subsequently described the latest talks as “productive” and said they “can bear fruits.”
President Joe Biden announced this week he had agreed to a virtual meeting with Xi before the end of the year.