Taiwan is eager to contribute to the US rebalance to Asia, but is “strictly limited” by US policy, a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank said.
“Deterring China from using coercion or launching an attack, as well as maintaining the capabilities and preparedness to respond, are Taiwan’s top military priorities,” said the study, which was commissioned by the US Congress.
“Taiwan faces a severe cyberthreat from the People’s Republic of China [PRC] and could face a major cyberattack in various military contingencies,” the 300-plus page study released on Wednesday said.
It said that Taiwan’s military is “highly trained and well-equipped,” but that the it must create a reserve force that can replace frontline troops in a conflict.
The study also accused the military’s leaders of having a “traditional mindset” and being risk-adverse.
Taiwan’s primary contribution to US regional strategy is to preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, it said.
In addition, Taiwan’s ability to monitor Chinese signals intelligence enables collection of information on Chinese maritime activity along China’s coast and in the South China Seam, it said.
“Beyond those functions, there is little that Taiwan is able to do to contribute significantly to the US rebalance strategy, even though it is a very willing and eager partner,” the study said.
The study said that Taipei would welcome a major role, primarily because it would help bind the US to Taiwan and increase confidence that Washington would come to the nation’s aid in a crisis.
“The US remains reluctant to include Taiwan in war planning or to coordinate with Taiwan militarily,” the study said.
The study said this reluctance is due to the US assessment that the benefits of closer collaboration with Taiwan are outweighed by the risks of an extreme Chinese reaction.
“China would view the explicit inclusion of Taiwan in the US rebalance as a dangerous new step and might react strongly, potentially undermining US efforts to manage the relationship,” the study said.
The study said that while the US is unlikely to sell Taiwan advanced fighter jets in the next decade, an interim measure could be to sell upgraded additional F-16A/B aircraft similar to the ones now being used by the Taiwan’s Air Force.
“Among Taiwan’s greatest challenges are the widespread resistance to new ways of thinking and traditional hierarchical culture... Cultivating innovation in its defense establishment is essential to generating new ideas and unique solutions to Taiwan’s security problems,” the study said.
The report called for a major US increase in spending on the rebalance and “robust funding” for the future.
The study gives four recommendations: The White House should clearly define the goal and purpose of the rebalance and better coordinate with allies and partners; efforts to strengthen the capacity, resilience and interoperability of allies and partners in the region should be accelerated; the US should expand its military presence in the Asia-Pacific and not allow China to limit access and innovative capabilities; and concepts should be developed for US forces in the region.
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