A senior US defense official on Thursday told a US Senate hearing that Taiwan should enhance its asymmetric capabilities to defend against an attack by China.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities Mara Karlin said that the war in Ukraine illustrates Taiwan’s need to be prepared.
“I think the situation we’re seeing in Ukraine right now is a very worthwhile case study ... about why Taiwan needs to do all it can to build asymmetric capabilities, to get its population ready, so that it can be ready as quickly as possible should China choose to violate its sovereignty,” Karlin told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
She was responding to a question by committee Chairman Bob Menendez, who asked when the last time was that the US Department of Defense conducted an assessment with Taiwan of its defense capabilities and needs.
Karlin said that the US and Taiwan regularly discuss ways in which Washington can help Taipei build a military tailored to the threats it faces.
“It is absolutely a priority to ensure that Taiwan is getting the asymmetric capabilities that it needs, that is most appropriate,” Karlin said.
US Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political Military Affairs Jessica Lewis said that to offset China’s military superiority, Taiwan should focus on boosting its asymmetric capabilities, rather than acquiring more conventional military weapons.
Asymmetric systems, which have been used to great effect in Ukraine, are cost-effective, mobile, resilient and decentralized, Lewis said, citing as examples short-range air defense systems, naval mines and coastal defense and cruise missiles.
“Obviously, we don’t want there to be a conflict in Taiwan, but what they are doing is taking steps to address this issue,” Lewis said. “They’ve just created the establishment of an all-out defense mobilization organization, and they are working with our national guard as they develop this program.”
“Our support [for Taiwan] remains rock solid,” Lewis told the committee, which was seeking to learn about the US’ cooperation and assistance on external security, including the threat to Taiwan from China.
In Taiwan, Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), an associate research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, yesterday said that Taiwan should leverage cost-effective precision-guided munitions to bolster its counterinvasion asymmetric warfare capabilities.
Affordable precision-guided air-defense and anti-ship missiles would be the key to giving Taiwan an advantage over an invading force, he said.
Although Ukraine has leveraged asymmetric warfare against Russia in a land war, Taiwan would likely have to focus on sea and air engagements, necessitating a different approach to asymmetric warfare, Su said.
Despite the differences, the logic remains the same, in that “the key to asymmetric warfare is the difference in cost,” Su said.
Asked about Karlin’s remarks, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu (劉鵬宇), said that some in the US have abetted forces for Taiwanese independence in a bid to hold back China’s rejuvenation.
“This would not only push Taiwan into a precarious situation, but also bring unbearable consequences for the US side,” Liu said in an e-mail.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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