Now China is out to change that. An intelligence aircraft that it flew Saturday near southern outlying islands of Japan came as a recent example. The mission hackles in nearby Taiwan, which had watched a Chinese aircraft carrier encircle it nearly a year ago. In August, Taiwan sighted Chinese planes three times.
China wants its world third-ranked armed forces to vie with No. 1, the United States, for influence in the western Pacific instead of being held in check behind the island chain.
“(The Saturday flight) fits a growing Chinese pattern of operating naval vessels and military aircraft beyond the ‘first island chain,’” says Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review in Washington. “They want to project power there and ultimately push the U.S. further back, or be seen as able to do so.”
Historic U.S. control
The United States and Japan normally police much of the island chain to keep China, their old Cold War foe and rival in modern diplomacy, from passing through. Washington has held annual joint exercises with Manila, as well, and it sells advanced weapons to Taiwan.