This week, it was revealed that Beijing is suspected of intentionally damaging some of the undersea internet cables to Taiwan, the latest show of what appears to be deliberate harassment as concerns that China may launch an invasion of the island nation increase.
While the disruption of Taiwan’s internet was a nuisance for the island inhabitants and visitors, it also revealed significant implications for the country’s national security.
No definitive evidence has confirmed that China intentionally cut the internet lines, but the incident brought renewed attention to what an attack on Taiwan may look like, and if the U.S. would be able to stop it.
War games involving a Chinese assault on Taiwan typically involve a large-scale amphibious attack that would attempt to quickly take the island and its international allies by surprise.
President Biden has said that he will send troops to counter a Chinese land invasion, which would prompt responses from other regional U.S. allies and could make the assault costly and deadly for all parties involved. Chinese President Xi Jinping seems unconcerned with the potential costs of a war in Taiwan, and U.S. defense officials believe he intends to launch an assault in 2027.
However, those comments have prompted questions over whether the U.S. is capable of engaging with China in a traditional ground assault, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“China does have a military advantage,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News senior strategic analyst, said. “They have more ships, more airplanes, more offensive and defensive missiles than the United States has.”
A war game conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in early 2023 simulated what would happen following an overseas attack on Taiwan by China, revealing that the U.S. would likely run out of long-range precision-guided missiles within a week.
“The only advantage militarily that we have are our nuclear submarines,” Keane said, but added that even with that advantage, the U.S. would need more of these specialized subs.
However, Keane argued that China would likely not engage in this form of warfare at all, saying, “A more likely scenario would be a quarantine or a blockade of Taiwan where China would attempt to control the airspace, as well as the sea lanes, and gain control of it without firing a shot.”
Taiwan has been subject to constant bullying and harassment by China, which has sent warplanes and naval ships to areas surrounding the island. One commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said this week that those factors would play a key role in stopping China, should it launch a kinetic attack against Taiwan.
On Wednesday, Gen Kenneth Wilsbach spoke to reporters at the Air & Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium in Colorado, saying, “You saw when Speaker Pelosi went to Taiwan what [China] did with their ships. They put them on the east side of Taiwan … as a sort of blockade. We’ve got to sink the ships.”
Should a blockade of Taiwan or a slow takeover of smaller islands connected to the country occur, it is unclear how the U.S. would respond.
“[It puts] the onus on the adversary, in this case Taiwan, the U.S. and our allies,” Keane explained. “We’re in a position here where we have to build up our deterrence capability. We want that to prevent a war.”
Keane also argued that, in order for the U.S. to prevent a potential war between two global superpowers, the U.S. will need to drastically ramp up its arms production, weapons stockpiles and the development of advanced missile systems like hypersonic missiles.
However, the U.S. will also need to better arm Taiwan and fill the current backlog of arms that America owes the island.
“Taiwan by themselves could never defeat the Chinese military, but they could impose significant costs on China,” Keane said. “We’ve got a $19 billion backlog on military equipment that Taiwan has already purchased.”
He continued, “Taiwan doesn’t need a handout in terms of military equipment; they can buy it themselves.”
The United States isn’t the only country with a vested interest in maintaining Taiwanese independence. Australia, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines, which have endured overt Chinese aggression for years, have thrown their weight behind the U.S. as well.
Capturing Taiwan would give the Chinese near-complete control of the region and would push out American influence.
“Every one of our allied countries in the region would have to work out some kind of a deal with China,” Keane said. “Secondly, Taiwan is a high-tech base. Every country in the world, to include the U.S., is completely dependent on Taiwan.”
He continued, “And if China takes control of that, then they take control of the major influence that drives our automobiles, our iPhones, our military capabilities — that gives them enormous economic control.”
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