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US sends long-range missiles to Ukraine
Andre Damon, WSWS, Feb 4 2023

Airmen with the 3rd Munitions Squadron assemble a rack of inert small diameter bombs during readiness training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson,
Alaska, Feb 9 2018. The small diameter bomb is a precise and accurate weapon that allows the F-22 Raptor to deliver decisive air power.

The White House announced Friday that it would send long-range missiles capable of striking nearly 100 miles into Russian territory to Ukraine, in one of the most significant escalations of US involvement in the war with Russia to date. Following Washington’s tradition of the “Friday afternoon news dump,” the announcement was timed so as to garner as little public attention as possible. The pliant American media supported the Biden administration’s goal of keeping the American public from understanding the consequences of this action. This massive escalation of the war against Russia received effectively no media coverage. It was not featured on the front pages of the NYT, WSJ or WaPo, and was not reported on the evening cable news shows. The weapons system, known as the ground-launched Small Diameter Bomb, is a rocket-launched maneuverable glide bomb with double the range of the HIMARS missiles Washington has already provided. The announcement marks a repudiation of Biden’s pledges in May:

We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia.

The announcement is the latest in a whirlwind escalation of US involvement in the war over the past week. On Jan 26, the White House declared that it would send 31 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, as part of a coalition of NATO countries sending over 120 main battle tanks in the first “wave.” No sooner was this announcement made than the White House revealed that it was in discussions to send F-16 fighters to Ukraine, against the backdrop of demands by Democratic and Republican politicians and dominant sections of the US media to send the aircraft. The expected announcement of the new long-range weapons comes as press reports indicate that the Biden administration is discussing openly endorsing a Ukrainian assault on the predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula of Crimea, which Russia has claimed as its territory since 2014. While the Biden administration endorsed the Zelensky government’s Crimean Platform back in 2021, which entails the “retaking of Crimea,” since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Washington had toned down its explicit endorsement for the official war aim of the Zelensky government in order to hide the massively escalatory character of its involvement in the war. Now, however, the NYT reports:

The Biden administration is finally starting to concede that Kyiv may need the power to strike the Russian sanctuary, even if such a move increases the risk of escalation. The Biden administration is considering what would be one of its boldest moves yet, helping Ukraine to attack the peninsula.

In an article for Foreign Affairs.com entitled “What Ukraine Needs to Liberate Crimea,” US Army Lt-Col Alexander Vindman, former Director for European Affairs for the US NSC explained how a NATO-backed Ukrainian offensive against Crimea would proceed:

Washington should give Ukraine the weapons and assistance it needs to win quickly and decisively. The first step would be to pin down Russia’s forces in the Kherson and Luhansk regions and in the northern part of Donetsk. Next, Ukraine would free the remainder of Zaporizhzhia Province and push through southern Donetsk to reach the Sea of Azov, severing Russia’s land bridge to Ukraine. Ukrainian forces would also need to destroy the Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects Russia to the Crimean Peninsula and allows Moscow to resupply its troops by road and rail.

What none of the planners of this offensive admit, however, is that its implementation will require a massive expansion of NATO involvement in the war, including not only the deployment of advanced weapons systems, but the direct deployment of NATO troops. Last week, explaining the deployment of the M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the WSWS outlined how such a scenario could unfold:

The significance of Biden’s announcement lies less in the battlefield impact of the tanks than in the consequences of deploying them. The turbine-driven Abrams tanks will require a massive logistical network inside Ukraine, involving large numbers of specialist American contractors. Attacks on these supply networks and American personnel servicing the tanks will then be used to press for implementation of a “no-fly zone” and the deployment of US and NATO troops to Ukraine.

Just one week after these words were written, the initial stages of this scenario are already being put into place. On Friday, Politico reported:

A group of former military officers and private donors is raising money to send Western mechanics close to the Ukrainian frontlines, where they will repair battle-damaged donated weapons and vehicles that have been flooding into the country. The plan is to find 100 to 200 experienced contractors who would travel to Ukraine and embed themselves with small units near the front lines. Under the project, called Trident Support, those contractors would in turn teach the Ukrainian troops how to fix their equipment on the fly.

The claim that this initiative is being led by “retired” officers is merely a fraudulent pretense distancing the Biden administration from this deployment. While the deployment of the contractors may be “voluntary,” threats to the safety of the hundreds of American personnel on the front lines maintaining American vehicles could serve just as well as a pretense for US escalation of the war.

Washington announces basing of US troops in the Philippines
John Malvar, WSWS, Feb 4 2023

Austin at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Feb 2 2023.

On Feb 1-2, US Sec Def Lloyd Austin visited the Philippines, where he met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and announced that Washington would be expanding its military presence in the country under the terms of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and resuming joint military exercises in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. While Washington is waging a war with Russia in Ukraine, most recently announcing the deployment of M1 Abrams battle tanks, it is at the same time preparing for and provoking war with China. Austin’s Asian tour of the past week demonstrated how far advanced these preparations have developed. Prior to his arrival in the Philippines, Austin met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who recently publicly spoke of the possible deployment of US nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. In Manila, Austin declared that China’s “threat to international order” was “unprecedented.” This claim stands reality on its head. It is Washington, not Beijing, that is rapidly ramping up preparations for war in the Pacific. The Biden administration is deploying more fighter jets and bombers to South Korea, shifting US troop deployments in Japan to a more immediate war footing, and restoring military bases in the Philippines, all the while openly targeting China. In the process the White House is deliberately resurrecting Japanese militarism, pushing Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to scrap the country’s constitutional limits on armed forces and expand its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. In Dec 2022, Japan became the third largest military spender in the world. Washington’s preparations for war with China, are focused above all on Taiwan. The Philippines, immediately to Taiwan’s south, is critical to these plans.

The US suffered a serious blow to its military presence in the region in 2016, when then Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, looking to improve economic ties with China, announced shortly after taking office that he was ending joint military patrols in the disputed South China Sea and putting all implementation of basing arrangements for US forces on hold. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took office last year, had campaigned claiming that he would continue Duterte’s orientation to China. Within months it was clear that a reorientation back toward Washington was underway. There is profound concern throughout the region that the tensions over Taiwan, stoked by the Biden administration, will erupt into war. The Philippines would inevitably be directly caught up in this conflict. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez expressed Manila’s dilemma when he recently told the AP:

We’re in a Catch-22 situation. If China makes a move on Taiwan militarily, we’ll be affected, and all ASEAN region, but mostly us, Japan and South Korea.

As he had in South Korea, Austin declared to the Philippine press that the US had an “ironclad commitment” to the country. Washington’s expanded military presence, he asserted, “makes both of our democracies more secure.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Washington’s only ironclad commitment is to protect its own imperialist interests. Its military presence destabilizes the region and undermines democracy. The basing of US troops in the country is a direct violation of the Philippine constitution. The stationing of US forces in the Philippines is already underway. Austin visited Camp Navarro on the southern island of Mindanao, where a US Joint Special Operations Task Force is currently deployed. Austin announced that the Marcos government was adding four new locations for the forward deployment of US troops and military supplies in addition to an existing five. While the precise locations have not yet been specified, then Philippine Military Chief of Staff, Lt-Gen Bartolome Bacarro, told the press in Nov 2022 that Washington had requested two locations on the Luzon strait, the portion of the country closest to Taiwan. Austin also stated that the US and Philippine militaries would be resuming the joint military exercises in the disputed South China Sea, which Duterte had ended in 2016. These war games directly target China in waters claimed by Beijing and are very provocative.

While Austin presented the war preparations of Washington as serving some commitment to the defense of “democracy,” he said not a word on human rights or the bloody legacy of the Marcos dictatorship, which is being rehabilitated by Marcos Jr. With the full backing of Washington, Ferdinand Marcos Sr imposed martial law on the country in 1972 and used its draconian powers to oversee the brutal apparatus of military repression. Thousands were killed and tens of thousands tortured by the Marcos dictatorship, while the US increased its military aid to his regime and Bush 41 declared his support for his “adherence to democratic principles.” The paramount concern for Washington was the preservation of its vast military complexes at Clark Airbase and Subic Naval Base. Marcos Jr has declared that the martial law rule of his father was a “golden age” in Philippine history. Under the current presidency, activists and political dissidents are routinely arrested as “terrorists.” The day before Austin’s arrival in the country, the government’s Anti-Terrorism Council issued a public declaration that a community doctor working with a deeply impoverished indigenous community was a “communist” and a “terrorist,” charges which could likely result in her death in a state-backed extrajudicial assassination. Washington had nothing to say about any of this. Prior to his election, Marcos Jr faced subpoena and arrest in the US for contempt of court in a case involving his family’s gross violations of human rights. The Biden White House arranged for Marcos Jr’s safe travel to the US, where the US president held a friendly meeting with him in New York. Washington sheds tears for human rights only when it serves its war aims and imperialist ambitions.

As under the Marcos dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, Washington’s concern in the Philippines is not democracy or human rights but establishing and maintaining a military presence to advance its war plans. The US bases in the country were a flagrant violation of Philippine sovereignty, a military extension of its neo-colonial rule. The US exercised direct rule over these bases and the millions of US troops stationed on or cycled through them were not subject to Philippine jurisdiction. Scores of Filipinos were killed by US serviceman, thousands raised accusations of rape, but not a single American was prosecuted under Philippine law. A vast network of prostitution and vice grew up around the bases, with the direct support of the US military brass. Washington staged the carpet-bombing of North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from its bases in the Philippines. In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted to end the lease of the US military bases, and the future establishment of foreign military bases in the country was barred by the constitution without the approval of a two-thirds majority of the Senate. It is for this reason that the NYT wrote:

Austin’s announcement will mark the first time in 30 years that the US will have such a large military presence in the country.

For 30 years, the basing of US troops in the country has been banned. The Biden and Marcos Jr administrations are poised to reverse that. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which Austin and Marcos now invoke is an executive agreement signed by the defense secretary of the Aquino administration and the ambassador of the Obama administration in 2014. It was an end-run around the constitution, presenting the basing of US troops as a “rotational presence” which did not require legislative ratification. In early 2016, the pliant Philippine Supreme Court, duly chastened by corruption charges, ruled that EDCA was constitutional. Washington rapidly moved to deploy troops, but Duterte was elected four months later and relations soured. After six long years, with the newly-elected Marcos, the US is moving again to establish bases. Austin told the press:

The EDCA arrangement is not about permanent basing, but it is a big deal. It’s a really big deal.

The denial that this is permanent basing is a necessary subterfuge to enable the “big deal,” the US is re-establishing its military bases, critical to its war aims in the Asia-Pacific region, in its former colony, the Philippines. The ten pages of EDCA authorize the deployment of unlimited numbers of US troops and supplies to a set of “agreed locations.” These locations will be governed by the US. Filipinos will not be allowed to enter any US-controlled location. Only one Filipino military representative will be allowed access, and only with permission secured in advance from the US commander. US forces are also guaranteed access to all “public land and facilities (including roads, ports, and airfields), including those owned or controlled by local government” as needed. US troops and civilian contractors are subject to the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the US government. Should they be accused of a crime, the Philippine legal system will have no jurisdiction over them. The US will pay no rent for the use of these facilities and if they choose to vacate a facility, the Philippine government is obligated to reimburse the US military for any “improvements.” These are military bases. No euphemism about “indefinite rotational presence” can disguise this reality. The terms of EDCA smack of a restored colonial presence. Washington is reenacting historic crimes and dredging up the reactionary filth of the past in pursuit of its war ambitions against China.

European Union urges intensification of Ukraine war
Peter Schwarz, WSWS, Feb 4 2023

Zelensky and von der Leyen address media after the EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, Feb 3 2023.

The entire European Union leadership traveled Thursday to Kiev, where it met with the Ukrainian government for two days. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who was visiting the country for the fourth time, was accompanied by Council President Charles Michel, High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell and 15 commissioners, whose function is comparable to that of ministers. The journey of such a high-ranking delegation to a war zone is very unusual and raises serious security questions. The fact that it nevertheless took place shows the determination with which the EU is pursuing the continuation of the war in Ukraine. Almost a year after the war began, the EU has tied its prestige to the military defeat of Russia, even if it costs the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and threatens to lead to nuclear war. The main purpose of the trip was to shore up the Zelensky regime, which is under massive military and domestic pressure. Von der Leyen wrote on Twitter:

We are here together to show that the EU stands as firmly as ever with Ukraine.

The number of Ukrainian soldiers killed at the front now amounts to between 100k and 160k, depending on the source, and will continue to rise in view of the imminent Russian offensive. The willingness to die in a war that primarily serves the interests of NATO is apparently declining. This is shown by a law signed by Zelensky against considerable public resistance punishing desertion and criticism of superiors with long prison sentences. The unexplained death of Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky on Jan 18 and the dismissal of several high-ranking government members for corruption indicate that fierce power struggles are raging within the regime. Meanwhile, authorities have searched the home of Monastyrsky’s predecessor Arsen Avakov. He is accused of corruption in the purchase of the helicopter type involved in the crash that killed Monastyrsky, which is considered unsafe. Since the Ukrainian press is subject to strict censorship and opposition media and parties are banned, it is difficult to obtain more precise information.

Zelensky’s government has long depended on the EU. This year alone, €18b of direct aid will be provided to keep the state institutions going. This corresponds to about one-tenth of the total EU budget. Military support, which is mainly provided by the individual member states and the US, is not included in this sum. The visit of the entire EU Commission is aimed at strengthening fighting morale. As the country sinks into ruin and poverty, the assembled commissioners gush over the utopia of a thriving Ukraine within the European Union. Von der Leyen said:

We are now preparing the future of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal said Ukraine would meet the EU’s accession conditions “in two years.” Reporting on the meeting of the Ukrainian government and the Commission, Germany’s flagship television news show Tagesschau said:

The ministers of the Ukrainian government heard about the benefits of good macroeconomic planning, the opportunities of the switch to renewable energies, and focusing on hydrogen.

The delivery of 35 million LED lights to facilitate everyday life under wartime conditions was also promised. The summit said in a joint statement:

We reaffirm that the future of Ukraine and its citizens lies in the European Union. The EU will support Ukraine as long as is necessary.

Everyone involved knows that these are pipedreams. The admission process to the EU, which requires all 27 member states to agree, takes years, if not decades. Candidates must commit to strict budgetary discipline and cut social spending accordingly. And even if they meet the admission requirements, this does not mean an improvement for the broad mass of the population. Even after 15 years of EU membership, workers in Romania and Bulgaria earn only a fraction of what their Western European colleagues receive. Many work under slave-like conditions in European slaughterhouses as truck drivers and in similar professions. The EU has no interest in a prosperous Ukraine. Nor is it interested in fighting corruption or securing democracy. It wants access to the cheap labour, fertile soil and raw materials of the country, which in addition to coal and gas include such critical items as lithium, cobalt, titanium, beryllium and rare earth elements, with an estimated value of €6.7t. Above all, Ukraine serves as a battering ram against Russia, with its vast land mass and raw material reserves. In order to militarily defeat and divide Russia and install a puppet government, the EU has rejected any negotiated solution to the war, even if it means turning Ukraine into a wasteland. This is also Zelensky’s view. he said during a joint press conference with von der Leyen:

Now it is obvious that the dream of a peaceful Europe can only be realized together with Ukraine and only by defeating Russia.

While the EU is boosting the Zelensky regime morally and keeping it alive with billions of dollars, NATO, which includes most EU members, is escalating the war with ever-increasing arms deliveries, effectively making itself a party to the conflict. Since Germany and the US gave the green light for the delivery of state-of-the-art battle tanks, the pledges are increasing. More and more countries are declaring their willingness to give up battle tanks, so that in the end several hundred are likely to be delivered. The German government has also approved the export of 29 older Leopard I models. At the same time, preparations are underway for the delivery of F-16 fighter jets that can penetrate deep into Russian territory and carry nuclear bombs. While Biden still officially rejects this move, Ukrainian pilots are already being trained on these fighter jets. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the F-16s would be delivered soon. The supply of tanks was initially also highly controversial, he said before the summit in Kiev. But they agreed to cross that “red line.” There have been warnings of escalation risks with each round of arms deliveries so far, he noted.

In Kiev, Borrell promised to increase the number of Ukrainian soldiers trained by the European Training Mission from 15k to 30k. The EU mission will also provide training for the crews of Leopard 2 tanks deployed by Germany, Poland and other countries. Commission President von der Leyen, who was formerly Germany’s defence minister, promised that the EU would complete a “tenth sanctions package” against Russia by Feb 24, the anniversary of the Russian invasion. The sanctions imposed so far have already caused considerable damage to the Russian economy. On Sunday, a price cap for Russian petroleum products will come into effect. Von der Leyen announced three months ago that she wanted to confiscate frozen Russian assets and make them available to Ukraine, a plan supported by several EU representatives. In the EU alone, around €300b of the Russian Central Bank’s foreign exchange reserves have been frozen. However, the operation is encountering difficulties under international law. According to international law expert Marc Bungenberg:

If the principle of state immunity is violated and property protection is called into question, the US could also be prosecuted for the Iraq war. Then other countries might be encouraged to seize the assets of Western companies and, if available, central banks as well.

The Russian regime of Vladimir Putin has done nothing to oppose the offensive of NATO and the EU except escalating its military intervention and promoting Great Russian chauvinism. The representatives of the Russian oligarchs, who plundered the social property of the Soviet Union, are organically incapable of appealing to the opposition to war in the international working class. But this is the only way to stop the war and the threat of a nuclear inferno. The Socialist Equality Party and its sister parties in the International Committee of the Fourth International are building an international movement against war based on the growing opposition of the working class to exploitation and capitalism, and fighting for a socialist transformation of society. This goal is the focus of the antiwar rally being held by the SGP today at 11:00 a.m. at Potsdamer Platz, as part of its Berlin election campaign.

US issues ludicrous “spy balloon” charge against China
Mike Head, WSWS, Feb 4 2023

Ryder discussing Chinese weather balloon at media briefing in Washington, Feb 3 2023.

The past several days have seen feverish accusations by US authorities and media outlets of an alleged Chinese spy balloon “hovering” over ballistic missile launch sites in Montana. From China’s response and expert accounts, however, it appears that a clumsy, hard-to-manoeuvre, high-altitude weather test balloon was blown by winds across North America. On its current course, the balloon was expected to drift off the US east coast on Saturday. The claim that China would use such outmoded and difficult-to-control means to conduct surveillance over sensitive nuclear war sites, rather than sophisticated low-orbit satellites, is patently ridiculous. But the hysteria points to the increasingly strident war propaganda emanating from Washington against China, as well as the potential for such an incident to be inflated to trigger a military conflict. The Pentagon said it had readied fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the craft if ordered to do so by President Joe Biden. On Friday, the White House abruptly used the incident to postpone a major two-day visit to Beijing by Sec State Anthony Blinken.

Prominent figures in the US ruling establishment including Donald Trump and Nikki Haley demanded that the US military immediately shoot down the balloon. Biden apparently took Pentagon advice not to blow up the errant balloon, citing the danger of falling debris from the craft, which was said to be the size of three buses. Yet the administration took the confrontational step of calling off Blinken’s trip, just before he was due to embark. The top-level visit had been agreed between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit last November in Indonesia. Blinken was due to meet Xi to discuss the worsening US-China relations. In what appeared to be a conciliatory statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the balloon was a civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research. It said the airship had limited “self-steering” capabilities and “deviated far from its planned course” because of winds, adsding:

The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon effectively dismissed the statement. Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said:

We are aware of the PRC statement. However, the fact is we know that it’s a surveillance balloon. And I’m not going to be able to be more specific than that. We do know that the balloon has violated US airspace and international law, which is unacceptable.

Seeming to contradict the hype about surveillance over missile silos, Ryder said the balloon was currently over the centre of the continental US and did not “present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” A Pentagon official confirmed that the US had assessed that the balloon had only “limited” value in terms of providing intelligence China could not obtain by other technologies, such as spy satellites. Despite playing down the threat, Ryder left open the option of military action. He said NORAD was closely monitoring the balloon, which was roughly 60k feet above ground level, while the Biden administration weighed its options.

All the circumstances surrounding the balloon affair are dubious. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden had been briefed about the balloon on Tuesday. But nothing was said publicly until Thursday evening, when the Pentagon announced it was tracking “an intelligence-gathering balloon most certainly launched by the PRC.” The Pentagon said one of the places the balloon was spotted was over the northwestern state of Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile fields at Malmstrom AFB. That base reportedly has 150 ICBM silos. US media quoted anonymous Pentagon officials as saying that the balloon had travelled from China to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, and through northwest Canada for a few days before arriving somewhere over Montana, where it was supposedly hovering on Wednesday. Just after WW2, the US military started exploring the use of high-altitude spy balloons, which led to a large-scale series of missions called Project Genetrix. But this technology has been superseded by satellites, which can be accurately steered and equipped with advanced photographic and telecommunications-interception technology. Singapore-based security analyst Alexander Neill, an adjunct fellow at Hawaii’s Pacific Forum think tank, told Reuters:

China has its own constellation of spy and military satellites that are far more important and effective in terms of watching the US.

An editorial in China Daily was scathing. It commented:

There is no way to know who fabricated the lie, but we can be sure about the ignorance of the fabricator. Surveillance balloons being used as military technology dates back to the early 20th century, the technology is outdated one can hardly imagine any nation like China still resorting to it today; at the same time, the shortest route between Beijing and Montana is over 9k km, which makes it impossible to precisely control the flight of this or any balloon.

The extraordinary outburst of anti-China propaganda is entirely hypocritical to say the least. The US military undoubtedly uses is network of satellites to spy on Chinese military bases and activities. These are supplemented by ongoing intelligence gathering by US aircraft and spy ships operating close to the Chinese mainland. Moreover, the Pentagon has orchestrated one military provocation after another in the South China Sea by sending warplanes and warships through airspace and waters claimed by China in the name of “freedom of navigation.”

Whatever the exact political and geostrategic calculations by the White House in delaying or scrapping Blinken’s visit, the decision came amid a mounting series of aggressive and provocative moves by the US against China. These steps have included trips by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, an ex-general, to South Korea and the Philippines this past week to intensify military alliances directed against China, including gaining access to five further military bases in the Philippines. At the same time, the US has ramped up efforts to sabotage China on hi-tech industries, including by ceasing approval licenses for American firms to export most items to Chinese technology giant Huawei and coercing the Netherlands and Japan to agree to join the US in limiting exports of advanced chipmaking equipment to China. US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy is also reportedly planning to visit Taiwan, recognised internationally as part of China, that is calculated to lead to a flare-up of tensions as did a similar trip last August by his Democrat predecessor Nancy Pelosi.

As reports about the balloon were splashed in the media, CIA Director William Burns was speaking at an event at Washington’s Georgetown University, at which he called China the “biggest geopolitical challenge” currently facing the US. That declaration reiterated the Biden administration’s public naming of China as an existential threat to US global power. Burns also claimed that the US knew “as a matter of intelligence” that Xi had ordered his military to be ready to conduct an “invasion” of the island of Taiwan by 2027. Burns’ assertion followed this week’s leaking to the media of a blunt internal memo by Air Force General Michael Minihan predicting that the US would be at war with China over Taiwan by 2025 and ordering his commanders to implement detailed preparations. Thus, far from China seeking to intimidate or trigger a conflict with the US via a “spy balloon,” as shouted by the US and allied ruling elites and media, it is Washington that is escalating its confrontation with China.

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