WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has accelerated its efforts to reconfigure Taiwan’s defense systems because it expects a more robust US military presence in the region to try to deter potential attack by the Chinese military, current and former US officials say.
The Russian war in Ukraine made American and Taiwanese officials well aware that any despot could order an invasion of a neighboring region at any moment. But it also showed how a small army can withstand a seemingly powerful enemy.
US officials learn lessons from it arming Ukraine To work with Taiwan in forming a stronger force that can fend off a naval invasion by China, which has one of the largest armies in the world.
The goal is to turn Taiwan into what some officials call a “porcupine” – an area littered with weapons and other forms of US-led support that seems too painful to attack.
Taiwan has long had missiles that could hit China. But the newly purchased American-made weapons – mobile missile platforms, F-16 combat aircraft and anti-ship missiles – are more suitable for repelling any invading force. Some military analysts say Taiwan may buy naval mines and armed drones at a later date. As in Ukraine, the US government can also provide intelligence to enhance the lethality of the weapons, even if it refrains from sending troops.
US officials have been quietly pressuring their Taiwanese counterparts to buy weapons Suitable for asymmetric warfarea conflict in which a smaller army uses mobile systems to launch deadly strikes on a much larger force, US and Taiwanese officials say.
Washington is increasingly using the presence of its military forces and allies as a deterrent. The Pentagon has begun to reveal more details about US warships sailing through the Taiwan-30 Strait since the beginning of 2020. US officials praise partner nations such as Australia, Britain, Canada and France when their warships pass through the strait.
In the context of intensifying its position and language, the United States is trying to walk a fine line between deterrence and provocation. Some analysts say these measures risk prompting Chinese President Xi Jinping to order an attack on Taiwan.
On Wednesday, the Chinese military described organizing combat maneuvers in the waters and airspace around Taiwan to send a blunt message to the United States. The statement was ambiguous about whether such exercises had taken place recently or if they were still to come.
A Chinese attack against Taiwan could take many forms, such as a large-scale naval and air attack on the main island with a barrage of missiles, an invasion of small islands closer to the southeast coast of China, a naval blockade, or a cyber attack.
“Are we clear about what deters China and what provokes China?” Bonnie S. said: Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The answer to that is “no,” and this is a dangerous area.”
“We need to think long and hard about how we can enhance deterrence,” she said.
US officials often discuss potential deterrent measures that end up being abandoned because they are considered too provocative. In the Trump administration, a former official said, National Security Council officials discussed sending US troops to Taiwan. White House and Pentagon officials also suggested sending a high-ranking US military delegation to Taiwan, but that idea was killed off after senior State Department officials objected, another former official said.
Glaser and other analysts in Washington said President Biden’s strong language during his visit to Tokyo this week amounted to provocation.
On Monday, the president emphasized that the United States He had an “obligation” to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan the third time He made these statements during his presidency. He said frankly that he would take measures beyond what the United States did in Ukraine. While Beijing may see the words as aggressive, it is consistent with Washington’s new focus on strong deterrence.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden said in Tokyo that the decades-old policy of “strategic ambiguity” – which leaves the field open about whether the US military will fight for Taiwan – remains in place. “The policy hasn’t changed at all,” he said.
Harry P. Harris Jr., a former US ambassador to South Korea and retired admiral who led the US Pacific Command, said the US now needs to embrace “strategic clarity” rather than “strategic ambiguity” to act as a deterrent. He said China “doesn’t block its preparations for anything it decides just because we’re vague about our position.”
The United States is urging allies to talk about Taiwan in a bid to show Beijing that Washington can rally other nations against China if it attacks the self-governing democratic island. on Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida At a news conference with Biden, he said the two leaders emphasized “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
In the three months of the war in Ukraine, Washington assembled a coalition of European and Asian partners to impose sanctions on Russia. US officials say they hope the measures will send a message to China and other countries about the costs of carrying out the kind of invasion overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin. US officials are already debating to what extent they can replicate the economic sanctions and military aid deployed to defend Ukraine in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.
Eric Sayers, a former senior advisor to the US Pacific Command and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said, referring to People’s Liberation Army.
A Chinese military statement on Wednesday described China’s exercises near Taiwan as a “serious warning” to the United States and Taiwan. A spokesperson for China’s Oriental Theater Command, Colonel Shiyi, said in a website statment: “It is hypocritical and pointless for the United States to say one thing and do another on the Taiwan issue.”
US intelligence analysts have been studying the evolving relationship between China and Russia and the lessons that Beijing might draw from Ukraine.
Chinese leaders face complex calculus in assessing whether their military can take Taiwan without incurring a heavy cost.
a Pentagon report It was issued last year that China’s military modernization efforts have continued to widen the capabilities gap between the country’s forces and Taiwan’s forces. But the Chinese military hasn’t fought a war since 1979, when it was vietnam attacked In an attack that ended in a strategic loss for China.
To seize Taiwan, the Chinese navy would need to cross more than 100 miles of water and conduct an amphibious assault, an operation more complex than anything Putin attempted in Ukraine.
In any case, the capabilities perceived on paper may not translate into performance in the field.
“As we learned in Ukraine, no one really knows how hard a military fight is until the war really begins,” said James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star admiral and former dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. University. “China may be unwilling to risk an invasion with current levels of force and capabilities in terms of attacking Taiwan.”
US officials do not make this assumption. They have pressured Taiwan to buy weapons systems they see fit for an asymmetric war against China. The Biden administration recently told Taiwan’s Defense Department not to order Lockheed Martin’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, nor did it discourage orders for more. M1A2 Abrams tanks.
Admiral Stavridis said the United States needed to get weapons into the hands of the Taiwanese quickly if an invasion seemed imminent, with an eye on systems that would weaken Chinese offensive capabilities.
“This will include smart mines, anti-ship cruise missiles, cyber security capabilities, and special forces that can neutralize Chinese advanced teams and air defense systems,” he said.
US officials consider mobility critical and encourage Taiwan to purchase Harpoon mobile land-based anti-ship missiles. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles could also be useful to fend off the Chinese air force.
Taiwan’s purchase of arms accelerated. Since 2010, the United States has announced more than $23 billion in arms sales to Taiwan, according to a Pentagon report from last year. In 2020 alone, licenses totaled more than $5 billion. Sales included advanced unmanned aerial systems, long-range missiles, artillery and anti-ship missiles.
Taiwan’s annual defense budget makes up more than 2 percent of its gross domestic product. President Tsai Ing-wen increased the annual figure by modest amounts.
US and Taiwan officials say Taiwanese forces need better training, but each government wants the other to take on more responsibility.
“Taiwanese forces hardly have opportunities to conduct exercises with allies,” said Xu Hsiao Huang, a researcher at the Institute of National Defense and Security Research, which is funded by the Taiwan government. “The military cooperation between Taiwan and the United States should be strengthened in the aspects of regional exercises and arms deployment.”
Ms. Glaser said Taiwan needed to create a strong reserve force and a regional defense force that could strain the invading army, as the Ukrainians did.
“The United States has encouraged the Taiwanese military for years to talk to countries with strong defensive power,” she said. Taiwan has sent delegations to Israel, Singapore, Finland, Sweden and some Baltic states. Now the situation is much more serious and more urgent. There is a lot of pressure.”
John Ismay And Julian E. Barnes Contributed to reporting from Washington, Paul Mozor from Seoul and Amy Chang Shen From Taipei, Taiwan.
“Amateur organizer. Wannabe beer evangelist. General web fan. Certified internet ninja. Avid reader.”