The US should consider selling additional air defense systems to Taiwan, said Mark Cozad, a former senior executive in the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
While he did not detail the systems he had in mind, the senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation specializing in East Asia military and security issues said that they should be capable of countering ballistic missiles.
In an interview published by the National Bureau of Asian Research, Cozad said: “Unless the US is willing to write off Taiwan’s ability to defend itself in a conflict between China and Taiwan, Washington will need to consider arms sales.”
He said that China had developed and purchased large numbers of “capabilities related to the US position in Taiwan.”
To offset these gains, the US would need to sell Taiwan air defense systems, devices to counter anti-radiation weapons, tactical air defense systems, cruise missiles and more advanced, survivable, mobile strategic air defense systems, Cozad said.
Asked how China would react if Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won next year’s presidential election and pushed to buy F-16C/D fighters from Washington, Cozad said that alone, the planes would not fundamentally change the China equation, but as part of a bigger arms package, the fighters could help enhance Taiwan’s security.
VOCAL AND NEGATIVE
“China’s response to any future arms sales to Taiwan will likely be very vocal and negative, but the practical effect beyond that will be limited,” he said.
Cozad added that in the past China had cut off military-to-military relations in a pro forma manner.
“Many capabilities it has developed have already taken into account the F-16s,” Cozad said.
“Arms sales to Taiwan are more a political problem for Beijing — since they would show that there is new life in the US-Taiwan relationship — than a defense problem,” he said.
Cozad said that many questions remain about whether the F-16s would have an impact in a conflict.
“Survivability is a concern given that China and the surrounding area are a difficult operating environment for the F-16,” he said.
“Operating locations are already limited with the air defenses China has in place and could become even more limited with the possible sale of the S-400 from Russia,” he said.
Moscow is believed to be in the process of selling its latest S-400 air defense system to Beijing. It has been reported that the system will for the first time allow China to strike any aerial target over Taiwan.
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