A new report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) think tank concludes it is “increasingly likely” in a time of war that Chinese missiles would shut down Taiwan’s airfields, preventing Taipei from controlling the Taiwan Strait.
The missiles could also close US airfields in Japan, preventing the US from supporting Taiwan, the report says.
“Such capabilities would do much to influence US and allied decision making in a crisis short of conflict,” the report said.
A team of experts headed by former US deputy assistant secretary of defense Thomas Mahnken wrote the report, titled Asia in the Balance.
According to a US Department of Defense estimate cited by the report, China has between 1,300 and 1,800 ballistic and cruise missiles for land attack, including four nuclear and 10 conventional variants.
It also has deployed between 300 and 350 launchers for its missiles, most of which are mobile.
The report advises the US and its allies to confront China with the prospect that a war in Asia would — right from the start — involve many states.
“One of the most powerful ways to deter a conflict with China may be to convince the Beijing leadership that it would face a war in multiple theaters rather than one confined to the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea,” the report says.
“The ability to compromise China’s sea lines of communication might prove a potent deterrent,” the report adds.
To deter and, if necessary, defeat China, the US military must be able to break a blockade around Taiwan, demine waters near the Strait and conduct wide-area antisubmarine warfare and offensive mining, the report says.
In addition, the Pentagon would need to neutralize at least some of China’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance facilities, the report says.
It should, at the same time, hit “large numbers” of maritime and force-enabling Chinese People’s Liberation Army targets such as over-the-horizon radar and space-based surveillance.
“Aegis cruisers and destroyers should be able to provide simultaneous ballistic missile defense for [South] Korea, Japan and Taiwan,” the report says.
However, US naval air and missile defenses should be enhanced and the fleet enlarged sufficiently to allow the US Navy to project air power across China’s maritime frontier.
At the same time, the US Marine Corps should maintain a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the East and South China Seas for “speedy insertion into partner nations under attack.”
The report stresses that Taiwan could do much more than it has to enable itself to resist Chinese military coercion.
It should harden key military infrastructure — including its airfields and command and control nodes — against Chinese missile and air attacks.
Taipei should also invest in anti-ship cruise missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, diesel submarines and mine-laying capabilities that would allow the nation to “inflict costs on China, deter an amphibious attack and protract a conflict,” the report says.
The US must convince China that Beijing cannot fight and win a quick regional war, the report says.
“Complacency in the face of growing threats to US interests in the Asia-Pacific region will increase rather than decrease the possibility of conflict,” the report concludes.