China War Talk Escalates As U.S. Helps Taiwan Build Homemade Submarines

China issued sharp warnings to the U.S. and Taiwan on Monday, reminding both governments not to take its threats lightly in the latest round of escalating war talk from Beijing.

Comments by the Chinese foreign ministry and a Communist Party newspaper came amid a Reuters report of an unannounced visit to Taipei on Sunday by Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, an intelligence director with Indo-Pacific Command.

The trip, which was confirmed by President Tsai Ing-wen's government in a vague statement, is the third known visit to democratic Taiwan by a high-ranking U.S. official since August.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing Monday that China "will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response."

Global Times, which represents the Chinese leadership's most hawkish views, went a step further by publishing colorful warnings aimed at Washington and Taipei, which the state-owned tabloid suggests are trying to call Beijing's military bluff.

In some of its starkest rhetoric yet, the party newspaper describes recent Chinese Navy and Air Force drills in the Taiwan Strait as "no longer merely a warning, but a combat exercise."

"Neither the U.S. nor Taiwan can afford to take it lightly," the paper wrote.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has never ruled out the possibility of using force to reunify the island of Taiwan and its 23 million inhabitants. Under his leadership, cross-strait military tensions have risen to their highest in decades, especially since the election of Tsai in 2016.

Global Times, which listed the reunification of Taiwan among China's "fundamental goals," said the People's Liberation Army had "absolute military advantage" over Taipei and was also capable of preventing U.S. forces from entering the Taiwan Strait.

The U.S. "cannot be sure of its military advantage" over China, the state media outlet claimed.

In the newspaper's latest war threat, it described China as holding all the cards on the issue of Taiwan, adding that it could consider "directly eradicating the source of Taiwan secessionism."

Its editorial also echoed the Chinese foreign ministry's promise of retaliation, saying: "China will take action when the tensions escalate to a certain level to let the U.S. understand the danger.

"China will force the next U.S administration to make significant adjustments."

Following the August and September visits to Taiwan by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, the Chinese military began dispatching an unprecedented number of warplanes into Taiwanese airspace on an almost daily basis.

Andrew Wheeler, an Environmental Protection Agency official, is reportedly scheduled to visit Taipei next month.

The Chinese government publication has repeatedly likened similar moves by the Trump administration as the president's "final madness" in his remaining weeks in office. Trump's actions may also be his way of dictating the future of U.S.-China relations for the incoming Biden administration, the paper speculated.

National security analysts in Taiwan said the PLA was testing the island's defense response time while also conducting a form of psychological warfare in the hope that Taiwan will shoot first, giving China legitimate cause for a military response.

Global Times called on the Chinese Air Force to push the envelope, predicting: "Fighter jets of the Chinese mainland flying over the island may take place at any time."

Made in Taiwan

On Tuesday President Tsai launched Taiwan's first indigenous submarine program, which will produce the first of eight diesel-electric underwater craft by 2025.

The project is led by the island's state-owned shipbuilder CSBC Corporation and has a budget of 49.3 billion New Taiwan dollars ($1.7 billion).

The new "Made in Taiwan" submarines will have American-made weapons systems from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The defense companies are among weapons makers to have sold missiles to Tsai's government during the Trump administration.

In a statement on Sunday, Taiwan's Navy Command confirmed that the U.S. government had given the defense contractors permission to take part in the manufacturing of the island's homemade submarines.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen attends a ceremony marking Taiwan's first submarine program at the state-owned CSBC shipyard in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on November 24, 2020. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images