Days ago amid soaring tensions over Taiwan a US carrier group entered the South China Sea. China's response was to fly a dozen aircraft in Taiwan's airspace while further announcing military drills in the Gulf of Tonkin.
And now China is warning Taiwan that "independence means war" in Thursday remarks out of the Defense Ministry. During a monthly press briefing Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian was asked about regional tensions, and he responded by saying that "military activities" in the Taiwan Strait "are necessary actions to address the current security situation"
He then warned in a repeat of past foreign ministry and PLA leadership statements: "Those who play with fire will burn themselves, and 'Taiwan independence' means war."
On Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian slammed the nearby US military movements, saying "It does no good to regional peace and stability for the United States to frequently send military vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to show off muscles."
He announced the Gulf of Tonkin drills would run from Wednesday through Saturday, but there's little details known in terms of size of the exercise, which is a clear signal to the US naval vessels in the region. Specifically the USS Theodore Roosevelt is now patrolling the South China Sea in an operation dubbed "freedom of operation" movements.
Earlier this week Reuters observers painted a picture of each side flexing its muscles in a dangerous build-up which itself could trigger inadvertent war, given the number of aerial and naval assets potentially crisscrossing:
Armed and ready to go, Taiwan air force jets screamed into the sky on Tuesday in a drill to simulate a war scenario, showing its fleet’s battle readiness after dozens of Chinese warplanes flew into the island’s air defense zone over the weekend.
One Taiwan Air Force colonel overseeing the island republic's deterrence response, which has involved scrambling jets to warn off frequent Chinese PLA incursions told Reuters "We are ready" while emphasizing, "We will not give up one inch of our territory."
The report described the scene further at one "frontline" base:
In a hardened shelter, flight crew from the First Tactical Fighter Wing rushed to ready two IDFs as an alarm bell rang out, aiming to get them off the ground within five minutes of an emergency call, armed with U.S.-made Sidewinders and domestically-developed Wan Chien air-to-ground cruise missiles.
Colonel Lee Ching-shi told Reuters their jets usually go up armed with guns, Sidewinders and Taiwan-made Sky Sword missiles when reacting to Chinese jets and they can respond "at any time".
Meanwhile, Biden's newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed this week to confront China while saying there's "no doubt" it's America's greatest long term threat.
In a surprising statement during his confirmation hearing before the senate last week, Blinken said, "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China." He added the caveat, however, that it was "Not the way he went about it in a number of ways, but the basic principle was right."