US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and other US officials on Tuesday told a US Senate hearing that China remained determined to invade Taiwan, and was making its military capable of doing so by 2030. US Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier said that until China is ready to attempt an invasion, it would continue to threaten Taiwan militarily.
This was apparent over the past week, as China’s military conducted joint exercises with its aircraft and carrier group along the southern and eastern parts of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) from Thursday last week to Sunday. China also flew a WZ-10 attack helicopter across the median line of the Taiwan Strait and issued a warning to the US Navy’s guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal on Tuesday, which was conducting a “freedom of navigation operation” through the Taiwan Strait, Reuters reported.
While China strengthens its military, Taiwan is implementing a new reservist training program, and is focusing on its asymmetric warfare capabilities, Deutsche Welle reported on March 15. In practice, this would mean the use of “weapons like coastal defense cruise missiles” and “short-range, mobile air defenses, smart naval mines or drones,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, told the broadcaster.
Ian Easton, senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, a US think tank, was also quoted in the report, saying that Taiwan’s best option would be a defensive alliance with the US, and an “updated and intensified” military training program.
Taiwan is addressing Chinese threats by providing additional training to reservists, and through bills proposed recently by Democratic Progressive Party legislators, including Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅), that would prepare Taiwan’s private security guards for wartime roles. A TVBS News Network poll conducted in March also showed majority public support for female military conscripts and longer service requirements.
Civilians in Ukraine have been taking up arms and joining the defense effort. While a conflict between Taiwan and China would mostly occur at sea or in the air, Taiwanese could be made more combat-ready. This could include training to use drones, missile systems and anti-aircraft guns. Widespread hand-held weapons training — including urban and guerrilla warfare training — would also be useful if Chinese forces made landfall in Taiwan.
Whether Washington would commit troops to a conflict is unclear, but the government should at least continue to push the US on intelligence sharing. As more F-16 jets are upgraded with newer communications systems through the F-16V program, reconnaissance and targeting information could be shared securely between the Taiwanese military and US forces stationed on Okinawa. Japanese systems could also be linked with Taiwan’s toward such an effort.
If the US is considering troop deployment to the Taiwan Strait during a conflict, it should start preparations through increased joint training in and around Taiwan, and accompanying freedom of navigation exercises with stops at Taiwanese ports.
The US Senate Committee on Armed Services in 2017 passed a provision that would re-establish regular visits by US Navy vessels to Kaohsiung or “other suitable ports,” and allow the US Pacific Command to “receive ports of call by Taiwan.” Such stops would improve combat readiness, and could serve as a deterrent to Chinese aggression without being more provocative than passages through the Taiwan Strait.
China has no intention of reducing its aggression toward Taiwan, despite the unity shown by the US and NATO to Russian aggression. Taiwan should accelerate military conscription and training, and increase joint preparedness with the US and Japan.
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