Mon, Sep 17, 2018 - Page 6 News List

In space, Taiwan can live forever

By Richard Fisher Jr

This might not happen soon, due in no small part to China’s ambition to control the Earth-moon system, thus leveraging control over how all nations might benefit from the emerging space economy.

Therefore, it is also important for Washington to consider how new space capabilities might help to deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan.

For example, with even short warning, a Taiwan-based space launcher could be used to loft hundreds of very small surveillance satellites that China cannot shoot down, thus ensuring Taiwan could monitor and target invading Chinese ships and aircraft. This could go far to deter China from initiating such an attack.

Taiwan could benefit in other ways. Early last month, General Carlton Everhart, leader of the US Air Force Mobility Command, spoke of his visit to SpaceX, where he was told the Big Falcon Rocket could move 136 tonnes of cargo around the Earth in 30 minutes.

On the eve of Chinese aggression, three such missions could very quickly ship about 1,200 PAC-3 missile interceptors to Taiwan. While the US might not have this number of PAC-3s today, three Big Falcon Rocket missions could make it possible to ship about as many PAC-3s as the number of Chinese short-range ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan.

China’s growing threats to Taiwan, other US allies and to US forces in Asia, especially from its emerging maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicle weapons, is a factor forcing the US to expand its missile defense capabilities to space.

First, this might include new missile detection sensors and then new low Earth orbit-based missile defense systems. These will enable the US to target enemy missiles in their most vulnerable “boost phase” of launch, and complement the land and sea-based missile defenses of the US and Taiwan.

For Washington and Taipei, peace in the Taiwan Strait, as in all of Asia, now depends not just on terrestrial military strength and cooperation alone, but also on strength and cooperation in space. China’s and Russia’s military challenges on Earth and space must now be countered by new US capabilities in space. These US capabilities could bring closer the day both China and Russia conclude that aggression will fail. This in turn would contribute to real peace on the Taiwan Strait, in low Earth orbits and beyond.

By contributing to a future space economy on the moon and Mars, Taiwan could help the democracies to achieve a level of presence that can help deter space aggression. It can also deepen its partnership with the US and other space-faring nations, transcending China’s long effort to isolate and destroy the nation’s democratic example.

Richard Fisher Jr is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

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