Saturday, October 20, 2018

U.S. vs China: Latest Provocation To Beijing, U.S. Plans New Warship Passage Through Taiwan Strait, U.S. Navy Investigating Two Mysterious Helicopter Crashes

In Latest Provocation To Beijing, US Plans New Warship Passage Through Taiwan Strait

In Washington's latest attempt to provoke Beijing, the United States is planning to send warships through the Taiwan Strait according to Reuters, a mission meant to ensure "free passage" through the strategic waterway and which will further heighten political tensions with China. Reuters sources did not discuss the potential timing for any fresh passage through the strait.
The last time the US conducted a similar crossing under the "free passage" umbrella, China responded angrily over what it saw was the latest US incursion in its geopolitical sphere of influence and a fresh mission would only exacerbate the state of affairs between the two superpowers; meanwhile any repeat would be seen in self-ruled Taiwan as a fresh expression of support by President Donald Trump’s government.

China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province, has been ramping up pressure to assert its sovereignty over the island and it raised concerns over U.S. policy toward Taiwan in talks this week with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Singapore.
Ironically, even as Washington mulls ordering a fresh passage through the strait in a show of support for Taiwan and defiance of China's growing sphere of influence, it has been trying to explain to Beijing that its policies toward Taiwan are unchanged. Mattis delivered that message to China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe personally on Thursday, on the sidelines of an Asian security forum.
"Minister Wei raised Taiwan and concerns about our policy. The Secretary reassured Minister Wei that we haven’t changed our Taiwan policy, our one China policy. So it was, I think, a familiar exchange" said Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense who helps guide Pentagon policy in Asia. While Washington has no formal ties with Taiwan, it is bound by law to help it defend itself and is the island’s main source of arms, a topic near and dear to president Trump's heart: Washington has sold Taiwan more than $15 billion in weaponry since 2010.
Sparring over Taiwan has been just one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship, which also include a bitter trade war, U.S. sanctions and China’s increasingly assertive military posture in the South China Sea.

Predictably, Beijing - which has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control - responded to the July passage with a warning to the United States to avoid jeopardizing “peace and stability” in the strategic waterway. China has also viewed U.S. overtures toward Taiwan "with alarm", including the unveiling a new de facto embassy in Taiwan and passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages U.S. officials to visit the island.
Whatever Taiwan's fate, the upcoming deliberate US provocation over what China views as its key national interest will only serve to further deteriorate relations between the two nations which are already engaged in both currency and trade war, a relationship in which some have been asking what will be the "accidental" catalyst that escalates the ongoing war between the two superpowers into its "kinetic" phase.

The USS Ronald Reagan has resumed flight operations Friday morning after a mysterious incident where a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter crashed while making an emergency landing on the ship's flight deck shortly after taking off at 9 am on Oct. 19. The Navy said it is investigating the crash after the helicopter, a member of the "Saberhawks" Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron, crash landed shortly after lifting off from the ship's deck at approximately 9 am on Oct. 19.
The carrier, a member of the Navy's 7th fleet, was situated off the coast of the Philippines at the time of the crash.
All the sailors injured in the incident were said to be in stable condition and their injuries were non-life threatening, the Navy said. They ranged from minor abrasions and lacerations to fractures. The most seriously injured were airlifted to a hospital in the Philippines.
A Navy spokesman told Stars and Stripes that four crew were aboard the helicopter when the crash happened. In total, 12 people were injured and the carrier sustained some damage. The helicopter crashed during "routine operations" in the Philippine Sea, after the carrier participated in an international naval review near a South Korean island last week.

Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes reported Friday in a different article that the Navy is investigating the cause of another crash involving a HH-60H Seahawk helicopter, which crashed into another helicopter on an Okinawa runway on Oct. 9.
That crash, which involved helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85, happened at Kadena Air Base. Details were said to be scarce but the investigation is ongoing. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the Oct. 9 incident, but the crash was reported as a Class A mishap, meaning that the damage was either more than $2 million, or at least one of the aircraft is a total loss.
Oddly enough, that was the second Class A mishap reported by the Navy this year this year. On Oct. 4, an F/A-18F Super Hornet made an emergency landing at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., after an engine caught fire during a training exercise. Luckily, nobody was hurt. 
While certainly of a much smaller scale, the crashes are eerily reminiscent of the mysterious collisions of US Naval ships last year, which raised questions about the Navy's honesty in sharing details of the incident - with some even speculating that foreign hackers may have temporarily seized control of the ships involved. Ultimately, the accidents were blamed on human error.

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