China sending weapons to Russia?; Taiwan Troop Training; China's Diplomatic Blitz
News Brief (2/25)
China sending weapons to Russia?
VERMILION: According to Secretary of State Blinken, China is considering supplying Russia with lethal aid, something that could further inflame the conflict in Eastern Europe and lead to a more protracted conflict. Publicly stating that China has this intent is likely an attempt to deter action. On Friday, President Biden stated “I don’t anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to Russia,” which is likely an attempt to give China a diplomatic offramp.
Warnings to China from Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state — made in multiple settings on Saturday and Sunday, including on television — revealed that the Biden administration believes Beijing is close to crossing the line. And the fact Mr. Blinken spoke out publicly shows the desperation of the United States as it tries to dissuade Mr. Xi and his aides from doing so.
Officials in Washington and European capitals, including here in Madrid, one of the staunchest aid providers to Kyiv, say that they are bracing for a new Russian offensive in Ukraine this spring, and that they need to do everything they can this winter to blunt Russia’s chances of breaking through Ukrainian defenses.
Mr. Blinken confronted China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, when the two met on Saturday night on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, telling him Washington believed that China was “considering providing lethal support to Russia in its efforts in Ukraine,” the secretary of state said in an interview with Margaret Brennan of CBS News.
The comments came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had new information showing China was “considering providing lethal support” to the Russian military.
“To date, we have seen Chinese companies … provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine. The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they’re considering providing lethal support,” Blinken told CBS News on Saturday.
A series of leading European officials cautioned China against crossing such a line.
The War in Ukraine: China Is Reportedly Negotiating with Russia To Supply Kamikaze Drones - Der Spiegel
VERMILION: It is unclear where Der Spiegel got this information, but China immediately refuted it. Aside from this one instance, the US believes that China is already supplying Russia with dual-use equipment that is being employed in Ukraine. Such equipment is meant to be passable as civilian tech in nature, but can also be used for military purposes. The CCP continues to do a tightrope act by supporting Russia while avoiding Western sanctions.
China reacted quickly, with a Foreign Ministry spokesperson accusing Blinken of spreading disinformation. But information obtained by DER SPIEGEL indicates that the planned cooperation between Beijing and Moscow goes even further than Blinken makes it sound.
According to that information, the Russian military is engaged in negotiations with Chinese drone manufacturer Xi'an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology over the mass production of kamikaze drones for Russia. The revelations create a new urgency in the debate over possible Chinese military support for Russia.
In a further step, Bingo reportedly plans to deliver components and know-how to Russia so that the country can produce around 100 drones a month on its own.
Taiwan Troop Training
VERMILION: US-Taiwan military relations are on the upswing. Aside from more US advisors in Taiwan, roughly 500 Taiwanese soldiers are going to the US to train. Historically, US-Taiwan military training primarily takes place at the platoon and company level. A battalion going to train in the US speaks volumes to how seriously Taiwan and the US are taking the China threat. When will the US and Taiwan train at the brigade level?
WASHINGTON—The U.S. is markedly increasing the number of troops deployed to Taiwan, more than quadrupling the current number to bolster a training program for the island’s military amid a rising threat from China.
The U.S. plans to deploy between 100 and 200 troops to the island in the coming months, up from roughly 30 there a year ago, according to U.S. officials. The larger force will expand a training program the Pentagon has taken pains not to publicize as the U.S. works to provide Taipei with the capabilities it needs to defend itself without provoking Beijing.
The number of American troops, which has included special-operations forces and U.S. Marines, has fluctuated by a handful during the past few years, according to Defense Department data. The planned increase would be the largest deployment of forces in decades by the U.S. on Taiwan, as the two draw closer to counter China’s growing military power.
Beyond training on Taiwan, the Michigan National Guard is also training a contingent of the Taiwanese military, including during annual exercises with multiple countries at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, according to people familiar with the training.
Meanwhile the official Central News Agency (CNA) quoted Taiwanese military experts who said that Taipei is to send a combined arms battalion to the United States for training in the second half of this year at.
The CNA said in a report that the joint battalion will be composed mainly of soldiers from the Army’s 333rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade and 542nd Armor Brigade. A battalion has around 500 troops.
Up to now, Taiwan has only sent platoon-level (25-60 troops) and company-level (80-150 troops) teams to the U.S. as part of military exchanges.
Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng again didn’t confirm the report but neither did he deny it.
This new development “would be a radical change in U.S. foreign policy, if true,” said Wendell Minnick, a Taiwan-based U.S. defense analyst.
The U.S. has allowed Taiwanese military personnel to attend schools, such as SEAL, or special ops, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to Minnick.
China’s Diplomatic Blitz
VERMILION: Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, and Qin Gang, a Chinese diplomat, are on whirlwind diplomacy tours in an attempt to pull countries back into China’s orbit. In the Pacific, China fears that ASEAN is at risk of picking sides in the US-China conflict and is doing everything in its power to stop this. Prepare to see more BRI initiatives in ASEAN countries as China uses transfer payments to win support.
China’s diplomatic actions in Europe are more curious. Aside from cozying up to Russia and Russian allies, China is trying to convince US allies that the US is the major proponent of the war in Ukraine, made more obvious by pointed remarks in China’s 12-point plan. This did not go well for Wang Yi and he effectively left empty handed. The CCP clearly does not understand that using their own propaganda in diplomatic discussions will not yield the results they so desperately want.
Qin Gang’s trip to Indonesia – his first visit to Southeast Asia since his appointment as China’s foreign minister last year – has shown that Beijing is increasingly concerned that the region is leaning more towards the United States, analysts said.
While the agenda for Qin’s two-day trip this week was dominated by trade and infrastructure development, statements from the Chinese side, as well as remarks by officials from both countries, revealed growing unease about a rivalry between China and the US, according to diplomatic observers.
The anxiety, they said, reflected the challenges both the US and China face as they try to nudge Asean countries to pick sides on particular issues.
“China has always been worried about the US getting a foothold in Asean and Southeast Asia, and that is borne from the fact that China has many points of contention with Asean countries that the US does not,” said Dylan Loh, an assistant professor of public policy and global affairs at Nanyang Technological University.
VERMILION: China’s top foreign policy official, Wang Yi, met with President Putin in Moscow last week. A picture of Wang Yi sitting in “shaking hands distance” from President Putin may represent a more public show of friendship in mutual support, especially since both countries have a known history of symbolism. President Putin is known to almost exclusively sit at opposite sides of extremely long tables when meeting with delegates. China appears to be ramping up support for Russia in a situation where the outcome does not look guaranteed or favorable for Russia and is facing a relatively united Western front.
China is walking along a very delicate path in its dealings with Russia over Ukraine. Mr Xi may feel like he is confidently striding down the track, but some think that the path is crumbling at the edges, with Beijing's claim to neutrality increasingly difficult to stand up.
Wang Yi comes out of meetings proclaiming that China and Russia are together promoting "peace and stability".
In other parts of the world, it will seem ludicrous to use expressions like "peace and stability" on a trip to Russia just before the first anniversary of that country's invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing knows this and yet decided to press ahead nevertheless, in the full knowledge that it will take a hit reputationally because it has calculated that it is more important to offer significant moral support to Vladimir Putin at this time.
When Wang Yi met Sergei Lavrov he said, "I am ready to exchange views with you my dear friend, on issues of mutual interest and I look forward to reaching new agreements."
Russia's foreign minister said the two were showing solidarity and defending each other's interests despite "high turbulence on the world stage", as if this turbulence was something floating in the ether rather than chaos of his own government's making.
Mr. Lukashenko is scheduled to pay a state visit to China from Feb. 28 to March 3, Chinese state media reported Saturday. The trip comes amid a flurry of diplomacy around the anniversary of the Ukraine war. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, visited Russia this week, around the same time as President Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit Moscow. The partnership between the two countries has deepened since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, troubling the U.S. and its Western allies. The countries declared that their friendship has “no limits” when the Russian and Chinese leaders met just before the invasion on the sidelines of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
China has extended an economic lifeline to Russia as it grapples with Western sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said China was considering giving Russia arms to aid its war effort—an assertion Beijing has rejected.
VERMILION: Unsurprisingly, this meeting did not go well.
China said it was troubled by Japan’s military build up and Tokyo took aim at Beijing’s military ties to Russia and its suspected use of spy balloons during the Asian powers’ first formal security talks in four years on Wednesday.
The talks, aimed at easing tensions between the world’s second- and third-largest economies, come as Tokyo worries that Beijing will resort to force to take control of Taiwan in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, sparking a conflict that could embroil Japan and disrupt global trade.
At the outset of the talks, Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Shigeo Yamada expressed concern about the suspected Chinese spy balloons and Beijing’s intensifying military activities such as those in collaboration with Russia.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong, meanwhile, warned against Tokyo’s “negative moves” with regard to Taiwan “in collusion with powers outside the region.” The comment was apparently a reference to Japanese policy documents recently revised to vow a reinforcement of the alliance with the United States.
The meeting came after the Japanese government said last week that at least three unidentified flying objects spotted over the nation’s territorial skies from 2019 to 2021 are “strongly suspected” to have been Chinese unmanned balloons used for espionage.
China has denied its involvement and criticized Japan for “making up stories to smear and attack” Beijing without showing any clear evidence, urging Tokyo to stop following Washington’s lead in inflating Chinese threats.