A former senior US defense official on Wednesday said that he is “very confident” in the US military’s ability to respond to a crisis on a similar scale to that of the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996.
Former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark made the remark at a conference held by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation on Chinese defense and international security.
Asked about the challenges Taiwan and the US would face should a similar crisis take place involving today’s significantly modernized Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Denmark said that Washington is legally obligated to ensure that the US military maintains the capability to defend Taiwan from attack or aggression.
However, it would be up to the US president to decide whether the US should intervene if there is another crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Denmark said, but added that he is confident that the US continues to possess the military capabilities to do so.
While the US is not legally required to intervene, Washington understands that its friends and allies would be observing its response to such a challenge, Denmark said, when asked whether US interests would be impaired if China annexed Taiwan.
Washington’s policy on cross-strait affairs is to find a peaceful solution that is acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, while preventing conflicts or attempts at coercion, he added.
As an unstable Taiwan Strait could negatively impact Japan, cross-strait peace and stability is also in Tokyo’s national interest, Denmark said, adding that there is much room for improvement in Taiwan-Japan ties.
Global Taiwan Institute senior researcher David An (安大維), who previously served at the US Department of State, said that while China has made great progress in improving its anti-access/area denial capabilities, he remains confident in the US military’s ability to prevail in a conflict with China.
An said the institute has been studying the defense capabilities of Taiwan, which a quarterly defense report published earlier this year by the Ministry of National Defense said has the ability to domestically produce three-quarters of the arms and equipment it needs, while depending on foreign sources for the remainder.
Taoyuan-based National Defense University professor Ma Chen-kun (馬振坤), an expert on the Chinese military, said the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis was initiated by the PLA’s top brass, who forced then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) into action.
“A similar crisis occurring today would show that Beijing is becoming more confident of its chance to successfully launch military attacks against Taiwan,” Ma said, adding that it is Taipei’s first and foremost priority to avoid such a situation.
In addition to obtaining advanced weapons, Taiwan should develop asymmetrical warfare strategies and innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence, which could neutralize the PLA’s numerical advantage, he added.
The government should focus on recruiting more talent from the private sector, Ma said.
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