More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday.
The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.”
Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts by the US and its allies in the region to contain China.
Regardless of China’s motivation, such incursions neither serve to intimidate the Taiwanese public or leadership, nor could they be argued to be violations of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Each country unilaterally determines its ADIZ, and in the case of Taiwan there is an overlap between its own ADIZ and that of China. Taiwan argues that the majority of the Taiwan Strait constitutes international waters and airspace, but at the same time claims nearly the entirety of the Strait as part of its ADIZ.
China is likely conducting the drills as part of its “gray zone” warfare strategy, knowing that the Taiwanese military would wear itself out dispatching aircraft every time a PLA aircraft enters the Taiwan Strait. However, by reporting on the incursions, Taiwan rallies greater international support, and greater opposition to Chinese expansionism.
Therefore, it is hard to say who is the greater beneficiary of China’s military drills — China or Taiwan — but Taiwan would turn the tide more in its favor if it could automate its response to the drills.
Taiwan already recognizes the need to strengthen its asymmetric warfare capabilities and it knows that missiles would play a key role. If missile systems can continue to be upgraded, and be paired with drones and artificial intelligence (AI), the ministry might not need to send fighter jets in response to Chinese provocations, which occur roughly on a weekly basis now.
There is a general consensus among military analysts that China remains incapable of invading Taiwan, and as the PLA’s drills in Taiwan’s ADIZ generally stay outside of Taiwan’s national airspace and waters, there is nothing to be gained by China if the Taiwanese military can keep its jets on the ground. However, Taiwan must have a clearly defined course of action in the event that its airspace is invaded to prevent itself from being drawn into a game of cat and mouse by the PLA.
For example, Taiwan could clearly define the distance from its shores at which PLA vessels and aircraft would be locked onto, and the distance at which the PLA would be fired upon. Taiwan should also have missiles constantly pointed at key Chinese infrastructure, and make Beijing aware that any missile strikes on Taiwanese territory would be met with an immediate and resolute counterattack.
Taiwan should also upgrade its ports to facilitate port calls by the navies of the US, Japan and other friendly nations, and should work with those countries to encourage unannounced port calls at irregular intervals. Beijing should be sent a clear message that its attempts at intimidating Taiwan through military drills are futile, and would only result in Taiwan growing more distant from China, while getting closer to the international community.
Taiwan should remain confident that China’s unpracticed military remains incapable of an invasion, but at the same time should not be coerced into depleting the resources of its military in response to the PLA’s irrational behavior. The nation should continue to invest more in AI, drones and missile systems, and to work closely with its friends.
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