Sat, Jul 21, 2018 - Page 3 News List

China stronger, but cannot take Taiwan: US expert

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

Center for Naval Analyses senior researcher Roger Cliff yesterday attends a seminar on cross-strait relations in Washington.

Photo: CNA

The military balance in the Taiwan Strait is tilting toward Beijing, but China would be unable to take Taiwan by force if the US intervenes, a US expert on East Asian security affairs said on Thursday.

Roger Cliff, a senior researcher at the US nonprofit research organization Center for Naval Analyses, elaborated on cross-strait and US military power at a seminar on cross-strait relations organized by the Washington-based think tank Global Taiwan Institute.

“The military balance in the Taiwan Strait is heavily tilting toward China,” said Cliff, who studies China’s military modernization, Chinese foreign policy and US strategy toward Asia.

“The good news is, providing the US comes to Taiwan to defend it, China does not currently have the capability to take Taiwan by force or will any time soon,” Cliff said.

The military balance between the US and China is still in favor of the US and would not change in the near future, he added.

However, “just because the military balance favors the US, that does not mean war with China is something that the US would enter into lightly, nor does it mean that it would not be potentially devastating to Taiwan,” Cliff said. “It also does not mean that China wouldn’t be willing to use force against Taiwan.”

Cliff detailed four scenarios in which Beijing might use force against Taiwan:

First, if Chinese decisionmakers feel that they could keep the US out of the conflict or at least delay its entry long enough for Taiwanese resistance to collapse, it might choose to attack, he said.

Second, if Chinese officials feel that Taiwan lacks the will to resist or the belief that capitulation would come quickly, it might act, Cliff said.

Alternatively, China might conclude that the US would not defend Taiwan, Cliff said, adding that there is also the possibility that Beijing believes domestic pressure requires it to use force against Taiwan, even if it expects failure.

Although most assessments indicate that Taiwan could not resist a Chinese attack on its own, that does not eliminate the need for Taiwan to have its own defensive capability, he added.

Taiwan needs to be able to hold out when the Chinese military employs “anti-access” or tactic deferral strategies to keep the US out of the conflict zone, the security expert said.

Asked what Taiwan’s self-defense strategy should be, Cliff said that it needs a coherent, integrated and comprehensive strategy, but offered no further elaboration.

Asked whether F-35 jets are a necessary or efficient investment for Taiwan, he said that any such purchase comes with a trade-off in terms of outlay on other equipment, and that the possession of such equipment must be weighed against the ability to make optimal use of it.

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