U.S. accelerates Taiwan’s defense restructuring to deter China


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has accelerated efforts to reorganize Taiwan’s defense system as it plans a stronger U.S. presence in the region to deter potential Chinese attacks, former and current U.S. officials said.

Russia’s war in Ukraine made it hard for US and Taiwanese officials to realize that dictators could invade neighboring territories at any time. But it also showed that a small army could stand up against a seemingly powerful foe.

U.S. officials are learning a lesson from arming Ukraine to work with Taiwan to form a stronger military capable of repulsing a naval invasion by China, one of the world’s largest armed forces.

The goal is to make Taiwan a place some officials call a “hedgehog.” It’s a territory filled with armaments and other forms of US-led support and seems too painful to attack.

Taiwan has long had missiles capable of hitting China. However, recently purchased US-made weapons (mobile rocket platforms, F-16 fighters, and anti-ship projectiles) are better suited to repel invading forces. Some military analysts say Taiwan could later buy land mines and armed drones. And, as in Ukraine, the US government can provide information to increase the lethality of weapons, even if they refrain from sending troops.

US and Taiwanese officials say they are quietly putting pressure on Taiwan to buy weapons suitable for asymmetric warfare.

Washington increasingly uses the presence of its own military and allies as a deterrent. The Pentagon began disclosing details of the US warship’s voyage through the Taiwan Strait on Route 30 starting in early 2020. And US officials praise partner countries like Australia, Britain, Canada and France as their warships pass through the straits.

Reinforcing posture and language, the United States is working to draw the fine line between deterrence and provocation. Some analysts say the move risks Chinese President Xi Jinping ordering an attack on Taiwan. China’s offensive on Taiwan could take a variety of forms, such as an all-out naval and air attack on the mainland with a series of missiles, an invasion of the small islands closest to China’s southeastern coast, a naval blockade, or a cyberattack.

“Are you sure you know what suppresses China and what excites China?” said Bonnie S. Glaser, director of Asia programs at the German Marshall Fund in the US. “The answer to that is ‘no’ and that’s a dangerous area.”

“You need to think long and hard about how to strengthen your deterrence,” she said.

US officials often discuss potential deterrence measures deemed too provocative and halted. A former official said that during the Trump administration, National Security Council (NSC) officials discussed the issue of stationing US troops in Taiwan. White House and Pentagon officials also suggested sending a high-level US delegation to Taiwan, but the idea was thwarted when senior State Department officials objected, another former official said.

During a visit to Tokyo this week, President Biden’s strong language reached toe in provocations, Washington-based Glazer and other analysts said.

The president said Monday that the US had “promises” to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan, the third time he made such statements during his tenure in power. And he explicitly said the US would do more than it did in Ukraine. Beijing may view these words as militant, but it is consistent with Washington’s new emphasis on strong deterrence.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday said in Tokyo that decades of “strategic ambiguity” policy (whether or not US forces will fight for Taiwan is undecided) is still in effect. “The policy has not changed at all,” he said.

Harry B. Harris Jr., former US ambassador to Korea and former commander of US Pacific Command, said the US must now adopt “strategic clarity” over “strategic ambiguity” to act as a deterrent. “It’s not that China is delaying preparation for what we’ve decided to do what we want to do just because our position is ambiguous,” he said.

The United States has urged its allies to speak out against Taiwan to show China that it can rally other nations against China if the United States attacks the autonomous island. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday said during a press conference with former Vice President Biden that the two leaders had “confirmed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

During the three months of the Ukraine war, the United States formed a European and Asian Partnership to impose sanctions on Russia. US officials said they hope the move sends a message to China and other countries about the cost of carrying out a type of aggression overseen by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. US officials are already debating to what extent the economic punishment and military support deployed to defend Ukraine in the event of a conflict in Taiwan could be replicated.

“I want the People’s Liberation Army officers to wake up every day and believe that they cannot isolate Taiwan in the conflict and instead have to face the decision to launch an expensive, widespread conflict that the goal cannot be reached,” said former chief adviser Eric Sayers. said. The US Pacific Command, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, refers to China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army, by initials.

US intelligence analysts have been studying the developing relationship between China and Russia and the lessons China can learn from Ukraine.

Chinese leaders are faced with complex calculations to gauge whether their military can capture Taiwan without incurring huge costs.

all Department of Defense report According to a report released last year, China’s military modernization efforts continue to widen the capability gap between the Chinese and Taiwanese forces. However, Chinese forces have not waged a war since they attacked Vietnam in 1979. The offensive ended in a strategic loss for China.

Occupying Taiwan would require the Chinese navy to conduct an amphibious operation across more than 100 miles of water, a far more complex task than Putin attempted in Ukraine.

And in no case may the perceived competence on paper lead to performance in the field.

“As we learned in Ukraine, no one knows how fiercely the military will fight until the war actually begins. University. “China will not be ready to attack Taiwan with its current level and capabilities.”

American officials do not make such assumptions. They pressured Taiwan to purchase a weapon system that it considered fit for an asymmetric warfare against China. The Biden administration recently instructed Taiwan’s defense ministry not to order MH-60R Seahawk helicopters manufactured by Lockheed Martin, and also declined to order additional M1A2 Abrams tanks.

Admiral Stavridis said the United States should quickly put its arms into Taiwan’s hands if an invasion appears imminent, with a focus on systems that will weaken China’s offensive capabilities.

“It will include smart mines, anti-ship cruise missiles, cybersecurity capabilities and special forces and air defense systems capable of neutralizing China’s forward teams,” he said.

US officials believe mobility is important and are encouraging Taiwan to purchase mobile land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles could also be useful in deterring the Chinese air force.

Taiwan’s weapons purchases have accelerated. According to a Pentagon report last year, the United States announced arms sales of more than $23 billion to Taiwan since 2010. More than $5 billion in approvals in 2020 alone. Sales included advanced unmanned aerial systems, long-range missiles and artillery, and anti-ship missiles.

Taiwan’s annual defense budget is more than 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP). President Tsai Ing-wen raised the annual figure slightly.

US and Taiwanese officials say the Taiwanese military needs better training, but each government wants the other to take more responsibility.

“The Taiwanese military has very few opportunities to train with its allies,” said Xu Xiaohuang, a researcher at the Taiwan government-funded Institute of Defense and Security. “Taiwan-US military cooperation should be strengthened in terms of regional training and weapons deployment.”

Glaser said Taiwan needs to build strong reserves and territorial defenses that, like Ukraine, can weaken invading forces.

“For years, the United States has been encouraging the Taiwanese military to engage in dialogue with countries with strong defenses,” she said. “Taiwan has sent delegations to Israel, Singapore, Finland, Sweden and some Baltic countries. Now the situation is much more serious and much more urgent. The pressure is greater,” she said.

John Ismay And Julian E. Barnes contributed to reporting in Washington, Amy Chang Chien From Taipei, Taiwan.

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