Decisions that the US Congress and the White House make on US Navy spending could affect the likelihood and outcome of a US-China military conflict over Taiwan, a congressional report said.
“Some observers consider such a conflict to be very unlikely, in part because of significant US-Chinese economic linkages and the tremendous damage that such a conflict could cause on both sides,” the report said.
Nevertheless, the report said the question of how the US should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a “key issue” in US defense planning.
The US Congressional Research Service report — China Naval Modernization: Implications for US Navy Capabilities — was written by Ronald O’Rourke, a specialist in naval affairs.
It said China’s naval modernization is oriented toward addressing the situation with Taiwan, “militarily if need be.”
“China wants its military to be capable of acting as an anti-access/area-denial force — a force that can deter US intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or failing that delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening US forces,” O’Rourke said in the report.
O’Rourke quoted US military reports as saying China is developing remote-controlled underwater vehicles, and torpedo and mine systems capable of area denial “in a Taiwan scenario.”
Estimates put China’s inventory of mines in excess of 50,000.
Although aircraft carriers might have some value for China in a Taiwan-related conflict, they are not considered critical because Taiwan is within range of land-based Chinese aircraft, the report said.
While China might be building large amphibious ships to defend territorial claims in the East and South China seas, the vessels would “be of value for conducting amphibious landings in Taiwan,” it said.
The report also quotes a US intelligence document as saying that China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in a potential conflict over Taiwan.
Given the pace of Chinese naval modernization, the report said that the gap in military capability between Taiwan and China would continue to widen in Beijing’s favor over the coming years.
“The People’s Republic of China views reunification with Taiwan as an immutable, long-term goal and hopes to prevent any other actor from intervening in a Taiwan scenario,” the report said.
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