Chinese muscle flexing in the South China Sea is old hat but the bullying has now gone too far. Earlier this month, China closed off part of the South China Sea close to Vietnam, the Taiwanese intelligence agency has now said, as reported by Reuters. This offers another explanation for an exercise that Beijing has called military drills. Last week, China had warned ships to stay off an area in the disputed South China Sea between its southern province of Hainan and Vietnam. Partly countering this version, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau told parliament that a Chinese aircraft had crashed and Beijing declared the area off limits while its forces searched for it, and also to conduct drills. The bureau’s director-general Chen Ming-tong told parliamentarians he couldn’t give further details as it involves the source of their intelligence. Taiwan’s security bureau added that China was trying to “test the bottom line” of other claimants to the South China Sea and the United States while the global attention is on the war in Ukraine. China has not announced any military aircraft crashes in the area. While the Vietnamese foreign ministry complained to China about the drills, the latter trashed it saying it was “lawful for China to conduct military exercises on its own doorstep”.
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