The US could defend Taiwan from a Chinese military attack, but defeating a Chinese invasion force is likely to become increasingly difficult in coming years, a report from the RAND Corporation said.
“As long as the Chinese economy continues to grow faster than that of the US and Beijing continues to make military modernization a priority, the challenges facing US military planners in Asia will grow more severe over time,” the report said.
The 400-page report was released just one week before Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is to arrive in the US for a state visit and a summit with US President Barack Obama, which might ensure that its contents are given close attention in Beijing.
In the case of a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US commanders would probably be unable to find the basing required for US forces “to prevail in a seven-day campaign,” said the report, titled The US-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography and the Evolving Balance of Power.
It predicts they would prevail in a longer campaign, but this would entail leaving ground and naval forces vulnerable to Chinese air operations.
The report said that given the size and technical sophistication of the US arsenal, together with the accumulated experience and resiliency of its military personnel and commanders, the US remains capable of fighting and winning a protracted air and naval battle against China.
The report examines what RAND analysts consider to be the two most likely war scenarios: an attack on Taiwan and occupation of the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
“The Spratly Islands scenario would be easier, requiring roughly half the forces of the Taiwan scenario,” the report said.
An invasion could be brought about after a more assertive China moves to isolate Taiwan further on the world stage, inadvertently pushing Taipei toward de jure independence, the report said.
Chinese leaders would then decide to occupy the nation by force, prompting Taiwan to appeal for US help, the report said, adding that “given the ambiguous circumstances of conflict, Washington decides to use military force to protect the island.”
The scenario assumes that, as tensions mount, both sides prepare militarily.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could deploy additional combat and support aircraft to the Nanjing Military Region, deploy its most advanced submarines and move forces out of garrison to forward staging areas.
The US might then react by moving additional aircraft and ships to the region and raise alert levels.
Politically, the scenario assumes that the US is allowed to operate freely from bases in Japan, the PLA is permitted to strike US bases in Japan and US forces are allowed to attack nonstrategic targets in China.
The report said little in detail about the role of Republic of China forces in defending Taiwan.
“Taiwanese ability to extend the duration of a contest has a substantial impact,” it said. “To the extent that Taiwan can prolong the duration of the conflict, US force requirements could be eased.”
“It is easier for the US to employ its air and naval power to influence events on the ground in a longer war than in a shorter one. The US should strongly encourage Taiwan to undertake defense reforms that will maximize its odds of avoiding quick defeat,” the report said.
According to the report, China would aim to disrupt US forward operating bases near the conflict zone, primarily through missile strikes, while attempting to sink US aircraft carriers or push back their areas of operation using submarines, missiles and air attacks.
The US would seek to gain air superiority through both air-to-air battles and by penetrating Chinese airspace to strike air defense targets and command-and-control facilities.
“The US would also seek to destroy Chinese surface assets, including forces dedicated to landing operations and surface action groups operating in an air defense or anti-submarine capacity,” the report said. “It would likely also undertake limited counter-space and cyber operations, especially if it were attacked first in those domains.”
“Neither side would look to use nuclear weapons at the start of hostilities, but the security of nuclear forces would weigh heavily on leaders’ minds during a conflict and under some circumstances pressures could build to cross the nuclear threshold,” it said.
According to the RAND analysts, for China to prevail in either the Taiwan or Spratlys scenarios, its offensive goals would require it to hold advantages in nearly all operational categories simultaneously.
“US defensive goals could be achieved by holding the advantage in only a few areas. Nevertheless, China’s improved performance could raise costs, lengthen the conflict and increase risks to the US,” the report said.
The report said that improved accuracy of Chinese ballistic missiles would force a large proportion of US aircraft to fly from bases susceptible to attack or farther from the conflict.
“Basing issues will pose greater challenges for US efforts to gain air superiority over the battlefield,” the report said.
The report said that while penetrating Chinese airspace has become more hazardous “especially in the high-threat environment opposite Taiwan,” the development of new generations of precision weapons gives the US “new options and greater punch.”
RAND analysts modeled attacks on the 40 Chinese air bases within unrefueled fighter range of Taiwan and the smaller number near the Spratlys and concluded the US could close them for two or three days in an initial attack.
US submarines could be expected to destroy almost 40 percent of Chinese amphibious shipping — tasked with landing troops on Taiwan during a seven-day campaign — “losses that would likely wreck havoc on the organizational integrity of a landing force,” the report said.
The report said China enjoys the advantage of proximity in most plausible conflict scenarios, and geographical advantage would likely neutralize many US military strengths, so US military leaders should ensure that US planning for Pacific military operations is “as dynamic as possible.”
“Western governments and commentators should make it clear to China that aggression would carry immense risks and that China should be cautious not to exaggerate its ability to prevail in armed conflict,” it said.
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit