Despite China’s military buildup, a war between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait could be prevented if the US helped beef up Taiwan’s defense capabilities, a visiting US academic said yesterday.
China’s “People’s Liberation Army [PLA] is thinking very hard of this mission, which is their principal one,” US think tank Project 2049 Institute analyst Ian Easton said at a forum in Taipei.
It is therefore important that Americans and Taiwanese see China’s growing military prowess as a serious threat and realize that there is no easy solution, he said.
There is no way to change Beijing’s desire to invade Taiwan, especially since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) came to power, Easton said.
Xi is much more hawkish than his predecessors and is reforming the PLA by adopting new and innovative tactics and plans, he said.
However, if the US and Taiwan can work together to boost the latter’s defense capabilities, a cross-strait war can be prevented, Easton said.
“What we can do is to make sure we are prepared,” he said. “If we prepare sufficiently we can protect the safety and stability in the region.”
He added that there are two major myths about a potential cross-strait war, which were created largely through China’s successful psychological warfare.
“One of the myths is that Taiwan is hopeless [against a Chinese invasion] and it is inevitable, so you should give up now,” he said.
But, in fact, the Chinese military is very respectful toward Taiwan’s military, he said, citing internal Chinese documents that he had obtained.
“It is a myth that Taiwan is a hopeless place or unification is inevitable,” Easton said. “Taiwan controls its own future.”
The other myth is that the US would not help Taiwan if a cross-strait war broke out, he said.
“If you read China’s own assessment, however, they take it for granted that the US will help defend Taiwan,” he said.
There is a “100 percent chance” that Washington will help defend Taipei in the event of a war, Easton said, adding that the only two questions would be when the US would arrive and how exactly it would help.
One major reason for the US to help is that Taiwan is a democracy and an old ally, he said.
Another reason is Taiwan’s geostrategic location in East Asia and the West Pacific at the center of the First Island Chain, Easton said.
However, if the PLA did decide to invade, the troops most likely would land in Taoyuan, so they could seize the Port of Taipei and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, before taking the capital, he said.
Taiwan knows this and has those areas properly defended, said Easton, author of The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia.
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