As we previously highlighted the past months have seen unprecedented levels of rival naval military drills in the Pacific Ocean, for example the month of June alone saw the US IndoPacific Command participating in over 35 war maneuvers with other countries - not to mention an uptick in Russian drills, which provocatively included war games just off Hawaii.
But perhaps the most provocative from China's perspective is set to be the ongoing joint military drills between the United States and Japan, which is said to be specifically geared towards a potential future conflict scenario over Taiwan.
The Financial Times is reporting this week that Washington and Tokyo held "top-secret tabletop war games and joint exercises in the South China and East China seas" - though of course they now appear not-so-secret. The planning of the games reportedly started during the final year of the Trump administration.
Adding further insult to injury toward Beijing is that the games are centered around the hotly contested Senkaku Islands - which both Tokyo and Beijing claim as their own - with Japan long administering the tiny island chain.
What's more is that the covert war games represent Japan becoming increasingly bold in shedding its fears of provoking Beijing, with FT underscoring it's now creating an "integrated war plan for Taiwan"...
The United States has long wanted Japan, an ally of the mutual defense treaty, to carry out more joint military planning, but Japan was constrained by its postwar pacifist constitution. That hurdle was eased, but not removed, when the Abe government in 2015 reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to defend allies that came under attack.
When the two allies began to strengthen their joint planning, Japan asked the United States to share its Taiwan war plan, but the Pentagon objected because it wanted to focus on pushing planning between the two countries in phases. A former US official said the ultimate goal was for the two allies to create an integrated war plan for Taiwan.
A major part of what likely helped Japan shift its perspective is the recent uptick in large-scale Chinese PLA flights into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone.
"Two of the six people said the US military and Japanese self-defence forces had conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea that had been couched as disaster relief training." https://t.co/8XHh9XijHE— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) June 30, 2021
These aerial incursions have been occurring on a near daily basis, and have grown bigger and bigger, including often the presence of nuclear-capable long rage bombers.
Japan is further locked into an escalating dispute with China over the Senkakus. In April, Tokyo passed controversial legislation which actually gives its coast guard broader rules of engagement as it encounters more and more Chinese fishing vessels essentially "squatting" in and around the Senkakus.
The legislation deals with potential conflict situations that previously were dubbed 'gray-zone' matters - which fell short of allowing for hostile engagement on a legal basis - and would effectively allow for the weaponization of the coast guard to stave off a surprise takeover of an island (such as in the Senkakus).