Mon, Jan 13, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Ian Easton On Taiwan: Should Taiwanese missiles target Beijing?

For many years, China’s propaganda outlets have broadcast videos of military units attacking Taiwan. Even in peacetime, viewers across China (and Taiwan) are routinely exposed to images of unprovoked violence. In one such media clip, Chinese tanks and soldiers practiced storming a large mock-up of the Presidential Office in Taipei. In another, computer-generated missiles rained down on a Taiwanese airport, digitally devastating a row of parked F-16 fighter jets. In yet another, Chinese chemical warfare troops conducted live-fire drills inside a training facility decorated with Taiwanese billboards.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media scare tactics have been accompanied by a massive military buildup. They are given further credibility by Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平), who has made strident anti-Taiwan remarks and severed diplomatic channels with the island. Taken as a whole, China’s actions have served to destabilize the Taiwan Strait. This geographic area is fast becoming the most dangerous potential flashpoint on the planet. Expect it to get worse.

The governments of the United States and the Republic of China (Taiwan) are not well positioned to meet the threat. While these democratic partners have made significant strides in the past two years, they are not yet keeping pace with the fast-changing facts on the ground. Beijing is sprinting ahead. Washington and Taipei are moving from a crawl to a walk.

Conventional theater missiles could change the game. The Pentagon has recently tested two prototype weapons, a ground-launched cruise missile and a ground-launched ballistic missile. Both appear tailor-made for fighting China in defense of Taiwan. Over the next few years, it seems likely that the US military will deploy them to the Pacific. This could help balance the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which already has nearly two thousand of its own theater missiles aimed at Taiwan, Okinawa, and Guam.

For its part, Taiwan has quietly built a modest arsenal of ground-launched HF-2E cruise missiles capable of striking deep into China. It seems probable that dozens, if not hundreds, of these mobile missiles have been fielded. Many more could be on the way, including stealthy longer-range variants capable of reaching Beijing.

Taiwan’s military appears to have the engineering technology needed to add ballistic missiles and guided cluster rockets to its national quiver. In fact, it might have some hidden away already, waiting to give the enemy a nasty surprise if they invade.

Of course, the CCP has a game plan for defeating allied missiles. Chinese diplomats and agents of influence will accuse the United States and Taiwan of being provocative, starting an arms race, and destabilizing the region. They will claim that conventional missiles are indistinguishable from nuclear missiles, and any strike on the Chinese homeland could result in a radically disproportional response.

They will attempt to influence public sentiment in the region and use the missile issue to drive a wedge between America and its allies. Protest marches and demonstrations could accompany the deployment of each new American missile battery. The former Soviet Union excelled at manipulating the global arms control community to serve its interests. The CCP will try the same.

Meanwhile, the PLA will continue its rapid weaponization of outer space and cyber space. It will threaten to blind the sensor systems the United States and Taiwan rely on for targeting. After all, missiles can’t hit what they can’t see. For this reason, the PLA is investing heavily in electronic warfare and using commercial front companies to insert its malicious hardware into the world’s computer systems.

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