Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) on Tuesday confirmed that the government is in talks with the US over stockpiling munitions in Taiwan, a plan that one researcher said would upgrade bilateral ties.
A provision in the US’ 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opens the possibility for the US to stockpile contingency munitions in Taiwan, which would allow US troops to come to Taiwan’s aid more quickly in the event of a conflict, the Central News Agency reported on Tuesday.
Stockpiling munitions in other countries is a normal preparatory measure for the US, the report said, adding that when the US and Taiwan had diplomatic ties, the US military stockpiled munitions at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taichung and Tainan Air Base.
It also cited Institute of National Defense and Security Research fellow Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) as saying that if the US were to again establish stockpiles in Taiwan, the bilateral relationship would be upgraded to that of “quasi-diplomatic allies.”
It is unclear how such a move would change the status of bilateral ties, as the US already supplies weapons to Taiwan, and it has been confirmed that US Marines are regularly stationed in Taiwan for the protection of US assets or personnel. However, stockpiling munitions in the nation could be seen as a concrete move toward preparing US troops to defend Taiwan, eroding ambiguity on the matter.
Japan’s Okinawa — where the US has several bases — would be a more suitable location to stockpile munitions without risking escalating tensions, National Policy Foundation associate research fellow Chieh Chung (揭仲) said on Tuesday.
Chieh seems to think munitions in Okinawa would be helpful to troops in Taiwan in the sudden event of a Chinese invasion, which would likely start with a blockade. Despite the short distance between Taiwan and Okinawa, the logistics of transporting supplies to Taiwan during wartime would be a nightmare, as supply ships might come under heavy fire.
Chieh also misses the point about escalating tensions. The US is under no obligation to tell China if it stockpiles weapons in Taiwan, and any decision to publicly confirm reports of it doing so would likely be intended to send a warning to Beijing.
Beijing and Moscow like to talk about “red lines” in terms of the actions of other countries — particularly those of the US and EU countries — but neither respects agreements they make with those countries.
Su said China had already crosses red lines through its frequent incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, heightening tensions, despite Taiwan and the US asking it not to. China also continues to militarize contested areas in the South China Sea, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration against its claims there.
Whether the US stockpiles weapons in Taiwan or not, China is moving ahead with the modernization of its military, as it is planning to annex Taiwan and dominate the Western Pacific. Democracies must not be concerned about upsetting China. On the contrary, they should be pressuring Beijing to slow the pace of its militarization, and scale back its threats toward Taiwan. It is imperative that Taiwan and the US continue to send Beijing a clear message that any move toward annexing Taiwan would be met with great resistance, and come at great cost to China. To this end, not only should the US stockpile munitions and equipment in Taiwan, it should also consider a permanent contingent of troops or the re-establishment of US bases in the nation.
Former US secretary of defense and CIA director Leon Panetta said in a recent interview that the US must show its strength to deter China, and must make clear what its own red lines are on Taiwan. Such advice should be acted on sooner rather than later to prevent conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
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