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WAR CLOUDS OVER CHINA

How Beijing reads Donald Trump’s swaggering remarks and flirtation with Taiwanese independence

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IN MID~SUMMER 2015, the Pentagon deployed a vast fleet to the Western Pacific with an invasion force of 33,000 troops. The little-reported exercise, bolstered by warplanes and attack helicopters, included the aircraft carrier George Washington and three nuclear missile-bearing submarines among the 21 ships.

It was only a game, the Navy said. But it looked very much like practice for the real thing, aimed at China. On the night of July 4— Independence Day in the U.S.—Operation Talisman Saber kicked off with U.S. high-altitude paratroopers dropping from the sky near Fog Bay, in Australia’s Northern Territory. Naval artillery boomed. Tanks rolled ashore. The invasion was on.

A Navy press release made it sound routine, an “exercise [that] illustrates the closeness of the Australian and U.S. alliance.” But Military Times, a close observer of the Defense Department, put a finger on its point: “Talisman Sabre: Trying to Deter China,” its headline said.

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