Taiwanese military observers have been invited to attend a US anti-submarine exercise in March next year, a military official said at the weekend.
This is just one of several exercises Taiwanese observers are to attend in the near future. It marks a significant, positive step in cooperation between the two militaries and hopefully indicates a renewed resolve in Washington to support Taipei.
Despite US commitments in the Taiwan Relations Act to sell weapons to Taiwan, more contact that would enable knowledge transfers and practical methods on how to use those weapons to secure military goals would be invaluable.
These have been heretofore problematic due to pressure from Beijing over what it sees as the US’ commitments regarding its stated recognition of “one China.”
Actual participation in specific military exercises is important to make sure members of the armed forces can maximize the efficiency and utility of military equipment bought from the US. It ensures that any processes required, including those involving several units or actors, are carried out smoothly. Personnel must be able to use equipment properly under pressure, while anticipating technical issues or countermeasures by the enemy.
Another important aspect of this development is the message it sends to Beijing that the US is committed to aiding Taiwan in the defense of its sovereignty, and in making sure it can hold out in the interim before US forces could arrive in the event of an invasion attempt by China.
The thought of Taiwan’s increased preparedness will hopefully increase China’s uncertainty about its chances of success. A failed attempt at an invasion would be disastrous for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The development will also boost morale within the nation’s armed forces.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a fleet of 68 submarines.
According to a RAND Corp report — The US-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996-2017 — China’s submarine capabilities pose a significant threat to US aircraft carrier strike groups.
The report is divided into two parts: The first is “farther from Mainland China,” which it calls the “Spratly Islands Scenario,” referring to the Nansha Islands (南沙群島) in the South China Sea. The second is the “Closer to Mainland China” part: The “Taiwan Scenario.”
In the Taiwan scenario, for anti-surface warfare, the report said there was a “major US advantage” in 1996. By 2010 this was changed to “approximate parity.” The prediction for this year was “Chinese advantage,” and the PLA’s capability in this regard is only expected to improve.
The invitation to participate in the anti-submarine exercise appears to be part of a wider policy to allow Taiwanese officers to gain invaluable practical experience.
The US government could also increase security in the Asia-Pacific region by further bolstering Taiwan’s all-round military capability and holding joint training exercises, inviting Taiwanese military units to train in the US.
To this end, the government and the ministry should seek more chances for direct participation and training opportunities with the US to improve battle preparedness and give PLA war planners further food for thought about the advisability of an attack.
This might cause Beijing to consider more reasonable solutions to the intractable situation across the Taiwan Strait.
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