The US military has developed a comprehensive operational plan to fight China and defend Taiwan in case of a Chinese attack, according to a recent news article and comments by Taipei Times sources.
The plan, which is overseen by the US Pacific Command headquartered in Honolulu, involves not only US Pacific forces, but also US troops and equipment worldwide, according to military experts.
And, while the plan, officially designated "Oplan 5077-04," includes provisions for the possible use of nuclear weapons, the focus of that section of the plan is that nuclear weapons should be avoided.
The Pentagon refused to comment on Oplan 5077, whose details remain top secret.
"It is [Department of Defense] policy to not comment on the specifics of operational plans," Pentagon spokesman Brian Maka told the Taipei Times.
While the existence of Oplan 5077 has long been known among military specialists in Washington, details were first made public in a recent article by military affairs journalist and former intelligence agent William Arkin in an article posted on the Washington Post Web site. Other details were supplied to the Taipei Times by military specialists in Washington.
While Oplan 5077 has been around since the Reagan presidency, it was elevated from a conceptual plan to an operational plan with assigned forces and detailed annexes in 2001, shortly after the [George W.] Bush administration took office, according to Arkin.
"The Pacific command developed a new `strategic concept' for the Taiwan contingency in December 2002, and an updated plan was produced in July 2003. Last year, based upon new 2004 guidance from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff ... a final Taiwan defense plan was published," Arkin wrote.
The plan now includes "air, naval, ground amphibious, and missile defense forces and `excursions' to defend Taiwan. Options include maritime intercept operations in the Taiwan straits [sic], attacks on Chinese targets on the mainland, information warfare and `non-kinetic' options, even the potential use of American nuclear weapons," Arkin wrote.
While the elevation of the plan to an operational component of the Pacific Command's mandate coincided with the installation of the Bush administration, many credit its current status as a final strategy for dealing with a Chinese attack with former commander in chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair.
"It was Admiral Blair who said, `Let's get serious about the defense of Taiwan,'" said retired Admiral Eric McVadon, a leading military consultant in Washington.
Blair had two aims when he took over, McVadon says. One was to develop good military relations with China. The other was to boost Taiwan's defense.
Despite his several trips to China to improve relations, Blair "hedged" his relations with Chinese, feeling that "it is prudent for us to realize that things might go badly, and we need to let them know the consequences of it," McVadon said.
There is no reason to believe that Blair's successor as Pacific commander, Admiral William Fallon, is not continuing with Blair's philosophy, McVadon says.
Blair was credited with opening up greater military to military channels between the US and Taiwan, greatly expanding communications between the two countries' armed forces.
This came despite hesitation in Washington about such steps among people who felt the cooperation would anger China. The US Senate has repeatedly rejected legislation passed by the House to enhance US-Taiwan military-to-military ties.