Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the US provides Taiwan with "arms of a defensive character", and pledges "to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan."
Given that Taiwan is on China’s list of core, non-negotiable issues, there is obviously much room for minor misunderstandings escalating into a full fledged confrontation between the US and China.
America’s Asia Pivot, announced last year by secretary of state Hillary Clinton, had added to Chinese concerns. The State Department, while stressing that this 'pivot' was now a significant feature of American foreign policy, insists that it wants to work with, not against China. "We recognise that the Asia-Pacific region is big enough for both of us," it says.
In response, outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao stressed on the need for a more powerful Chinese Navy.
Image: Thai soldiers carry international flags of the participating nations as they parade during the opening ceremony for the annual combined military exercises coined Cobra Gold 2012 at Wing 1's Office Club in Nakorn Ratchasima province on February 7, 2012.