The US considers China's enemies as allies in the region

Washington announced the start of joint military exercises with Japan and arms sales to Taiwan worth $2.4 billion
Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider, commander of the US forces in Japan, and General Koji Yamazaki,

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider, commander of the US forces in Japan, and General Koji Yamazaki,

Sino-American relations are experiencing a new episode of tension.

The United States has approved arms sales to Taiwan amounting to nearly 2.4 billion dollars.

The deal "will improve Taiwan's defence capabilities," the State Department said in announcing the deal, despite China's decision on Monday to impose sanctions against US companies involved in previous arms sales to Taiwan, an island it considers an integral part of its territory.

The sale concerns 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Batteries (HCDS), which can include up to 400 RGM-84L-4 missiles with a maximum range of 125 km.

Last week, Beijing first asked the United States to "cancel" this sale "to avoid further damage to relations" between the two countries.

Primer ministro de Taiwán
PHOTO/REUTERS-Prime Minister of Taiwan

Having received no response from Washington, he announced on Monday sanctions against US arms companies, "individuals and entities that misbehaved" during the sale.

Industry giants Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing's defence arm expressed concern about the move.

Japanese-American exercises

But it is not the last American activity in the region. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces began joint military exercises in Keen Sword (KS21) on Monday. It is the largest two-year military exercise on the island and the first since Yoshihide Suga replaced Shinzo Abe as prime minister.

When he took office last month, the new leader pledged, among other things, to continue military preparations to counter Beijing's claim to the Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

The exercises, according to Reuters news agency, will take place until 5 November at military facilities in central Japan, as well as in Okinawa Prefecture - which covers more than 150 islands in the disputed sea - and its surrounding territorial waters.

Soldados de la Defensa japonesa durante los ejercicios
PHOTO/REUTERS-Japanese defence soldiers during the exercises 

KS21 involves some 46,000 soldiers, including 9,000 Americans, and dozens of warships, including the USS Ashland, HMCS Winnipeg and the aircraft carrier attack group USS Ronald Reagan, which is also accompanied by the Kaga, Japan's largest warship, 248 metres in length.

One country, two systems

For China, Taiwan is part of the People's Republic, although since the end of the last century, Beijing has presented the formula "one country, two systems", according to which Taiwan has significant autonomy if it accepts Chinese reunification.

But the Taiwanese have maintained their desire for independence. Taipei has its own constitution, democratically elected leaders and about 300,000 active soldiers in its armed forces.

Throughout 2018, China increased pressure on international companies, forcing them to include Taiwan on their websites and threatening to prevent them from doing business in China if they did not comply.

Soldados taiwaneses participan en ejercicios militares
PHOTO/REUTERS-Taiwanese soldiers take part in military exercises.

In 2020, Tsai Ing-wen won a second term, which drew criticism from Beijing. At that time, Hong Kong had experienced months of unrest with demonstrators protesting China's growing influence.

Later that year, many saw China's implementation of a national security law in Hong Kong as another sign that Beijing was becoming more assertive in the region.

Meanwhile, the United States intensified its relations with Taiwan, assuring Taipei of its continued support. 

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House and the new Cold War he is waging with Xi Jinping have brought Washington's positions on Taiwan even closer together. 

In September, Washington sent a high-ranking delegation to Taipei. President Tsai Ing-wen's office in Taiwan issued a statement thanking the United States for the sale and said it would "improve asymmetric warfare capabilities".

Mike Pompeo y el primer ministro japonés
PHOTO/REUTERS-Mike Pompeo and the Japanese Prime Minister

The United States considers it a priority to counter China's influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beijing strongly criticised the meeting and warned "not to send the wrong signals to the elements of 'Taiwan independence' to avoid serious damage to Sino-US relations. During the controversial visit, China conducted a military exercise with live ammunition on the waterway that separates the island from the mainland.

This, coupled with the "disturbing exercises" China is conducting in the South China Sea, prompted Washington to participate and support its allies in the region.