China has made good on its threats vowing retaliation for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's tour of the US and Central American allies, now a few days in. On Saturday the People's Liberation Army (PLA) sent 18 aircraft and four naval vessels toward the self-ruled island.
Tsai first landed in New York on Wednesday, and is currently in Central America - specifically Guatemala and Belize, after which she's expected in L.A. for a planned meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The McCarthy visit may prove the most controversial part of her trip.
Beijing warned of an even greater response should the Taiwanese leader go through with the McCarthy meeting. Only has 13 countries across the globe currently keep official diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
While PLA violations of Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone, and even the Taiwan Strait median line have been a weekly occurrences for much of the past year or more, the past days have seen China ramp up the flights.
Reuters reported Friday that "Nine Chinese aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line on Friday carrying out combat readiness patrols, Taiwan's defense ministry said, days after Beijing threatened retaliation if President Tsai Ing-wen meets U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy."
The Taiwan defense ministry statement said it has deployed in own jets and ships to monitor the PLA movements, however, sought to caution that it's "not escalating conflicts or causing disputes" with China.
"The communist military's deployment of forces deliberately created tension in the Taiwan Strait, not only undermining peace and stability, but also has a negative impact on regional security and economic development," it added, condemning "such irrational actions".
It must be recalled that China's PLA military had launched its largest-ever 'encircling' live-fire exercises around Taiwan when then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in August. Likely ahead of April 5, when Tsai is expected to meet the Republican House Speaker, China will ratchet its muscle-flexing around the self-ruled island even more.