China’s Maritime Safety Administration has prohibited entry into the Gulf of Tonkin as it conducts military exercises in a show of force against US naval patrols in the South China Sea.
Beijing scheduled military exercises in the South China Sea this week shortly after a US aircraft carrier sailed through the disputed area to promote freedom of maritime navigation. This was, in turn, a response to Chinese military aircraft entering Taiwanese airspace in recent weeks. The military drills also come after new US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Japan Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi pledged to further strengthen US-Japan cooperation in the region, signaling that the Biden administration intends to engage heavily in the Indo-Pacific region.
China’s military drills and incursions into Taiwanese airspace are likely a test of the new administration’s commitment to the region and its allies. As the Chinese Communist Party approaches its 100-year anniversary, Beijing may continue to shift focus from domestic issues by holding military drills and applying pressure to both Taiwan and countries with legitimate territorial claims in the South China Sea. However, such behavior will likely lead to increased US freedom of navigation exercises, more frequent joint-US exercises with its partners and allies, and greater overall military traffic in the region.
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