CHINA boasted it has rehearsed sinking US aircraft carriers using hypersonic missiles as part of a massive war games amid simmering tensions over Taiwan.
Beijing's state controlled media bragged recent missile launches were squarely aimed at hitting any "foreign aircraft carriers" that could interfere with a "reunification-by-force operation".
Communist Party-run tabloid The Global Times quoted a number of named and unnamed "experts" who blustered about the massive war games near Taiwan.
China has been left furious after senior US politician Nancy Pelosi – the third in line to the presidency – visited the autonomous island earlier this week in what Beijing views as a "provocation".
Xi Jinping's regime views any engagement between Washington and Taipei as a US endorsement of Taiwan's independence.
But an increasingly belligerent China claims the island belongs to them – and has vowed to Taiwan by 2050.
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Warships, warplanes and missiles have all been moved towards the island for the massive Chinese war games – which in effect blockaded Taiwan.
Beijing's state run media bragged the drills showed how China could attack the island by first unleashing a wave of rocket strikes across the Taiwan Strait.
And it then boasted missile launches showed how the Communist forces could then also strike any "foreign" aircraft carriers that may attempt to "intervene from the Philippine Sea".
Hypersonic missiles such as the DF-17 could be used, it claimed, to hit "moving targets at sea".
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The "foreign" ships being referred to is clearly a barb at the US – with aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group just days ago operating in the Philippine Sea.
Chinese state media described the ship as "retreating" as she started to sail back towards its home port in Japan.
The White House has said the Reagan will "remain on station in the general area to monitor the situation".
"We will not be deterred from operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific consistent with international law, as we have for decades, supporting Taiwan and defending a free and open Indo-Pacific," said spokesman John Kirby.
The drills are expected to last until tomorrow as the tensions continue to simmer between China and the US.
Washington has always stopped short of outrightsupporting independence for the Taiwan's independence or pledging to support them in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Instead it has maintained a policy of so-called "strategic ambiguity" aimed at not provoking Beijing and has said backs the idea of "One China".
FEARS OF WAR
But recently Joe Biden broke with convention and responded "yes" when asked if the US would come to Taiwan's aid if the island was attacked by China.
Pelosi is a vocal supporter of Taiwan – and her trip to the island earlier this week made her the most senior US politician to visit Taiwan in a quarter of a century, which infuriated China.
During her trip the Speaker of the House of Representatives voiced America’s support for Taiwan and seemed to have called Beijing's bluff after it hinted it might shoot down her plane.
China is feared to increasingly view an invasion of Taiwan as inseparable from a war with the US.
The Communist Party yesterday cut contact with US officials on a number of key topics – and many nations condemned China's military drills around Taiwan.
And it's been warned Beijing could launch a series of Pearl Harbor-style strikes on US forces in the Pacific should it decide to move forward with "reunification by force".
Oriana Skylar Mastro, a fellow at Stanford University, told The Sun Online how Beijing now believes it also has to fight the US if it is to fulfil its goal.
Chinese operations on the dawn of war would be designed to try and knock out US forces so they could not react to stop China gaining a foothold in Taiwan.
The strategic gamble would be an attempt to stall a wider war – just as Japan hoped when they attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, drawing the US into World War 2.
“It’s about hitting hard and early so we can’t get boots on the island before the United States can launch a response," Mastro told The Sun Online.
She went on: "My argument is that the more people like Pelosi try to make the US commitment clear, then the more certain the Chinese are of our commitment – and the more likely a Pearl Harbor-style attack is."
Mastro is not the only expert to have suggest that the US could face another "Pearl Harbor" over Taiwan.
In recent book Defending Taiwan foreign policy experts Hal Brands and Michael Beckley warned the war could begin in much the same way – with a Chinese attack on US forces.
Chinese military doctrine demands that they attempt to "paralyse the enemy in one stroke" – and they warn "by the time the [US] was ready to fight, the war might effectively be over".
The experts, who penned the chapter "Getting Ready for a Long War" in the book for the American Enterprise Institute, argue the US is preparing for the "wrong kind of war" over Taiwan.
Both sides are readying their militaries for a "splendid little war".
But they warn Chinese and US military leaders will instead end up getting a long, grinding conflict with an overt risk of a nuclear exchange.
Japan, South Korea and the island of Guam are just some of the locations which serve the US army, navy and air force near China and Taiwan.
Guam has 6,000 servicemen on the island, South Korea hosts 26,000, while Japan has 56,000.
And the main source of power for Washington in the region is the mighty Seventh Fleet.
The fleet deploys between 50 to 70 warships, including aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers, cruisers and assault ships.
Some 27,000 sailors and marines are service with the fleet – which also has around 150 aircraft.
The USS Ronald Reagan is currently heading up the fleet as she leads the Fifth Carrier Strike Group.
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Chinese nationalists fled to Taiwan after the Communists won the civil war on the mainland in 1949 – and the island has remained self-governing ever since.
Beijing has always aggressively insisted that Taiwan belongs to them by right – and have pledged to reclaim the island by 2050.
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