A Chinese blockade of Taiwan would be a “monster risk” for Beijing and likely to fail, while a military invasion would be extremely difficult, senior Pentagon officials told the US Congress on Tuesday.
Growing worries of a conflict come as China has ramped up military pressure on Taiwan, holding large-scale war games simulating a blockade on the nation, while conducting near-daily warplane incursions and sending Chinese vessels around its waters.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said a blockade would be “a monster risk for the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”
“It would likely not succeed, and it would be a huge risk of escalation for the PRC, where it would likely have to consider whether or not it was willing to ultimately start attacking commercial maritime vessels,” Ratner told the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
“A blockade would be devastating to the international community and would likely induce the broad-based wide deep response from the international community ... that Beijing would likely be trying to avoid,” he said.
He was echoed by US Army Major General Joseph McGee, a vice director of the Joint Staff.
Photo: Screen grab from a video on the US Department of Defense’s Web site
“It is an option, but it is probably not a highly likely military option... It is much easier to talk about a blockade than actually do a blockade,” McGee said.
“There is absolutely nothing easy about a PLA [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] invasion of Taiwan,” he said, pointing to the nation’s mountainous terrain and the Taiwan Strait separating it from China.
“They would have to mass tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of troops on the eastern coast, and that would be a clear signal,” McGee said, adding that combined amphibious and airborne air assault operations would be “an extremely complicated joint operation.”
“That would leave them in that [Taiwan Strait] gap, 90 to 100 miles [145km to 161km] — that would lead them susceptible to all the fire that could be brought to an invading force that was already telegraphing their intentions,” he said.
China’s latest massive show of force came on Monday, when Beijing sent more than 100 warplanes in 24 hours around the nation, prompting Taipei to decry its “destructive unilateral actions.”
Also during Tuesday’s hearing, Mira Resnick, US deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said a US government shutdown could affect foreign weapons sales and licenses to its allies, including Taiwan.
“This is something we would like to avoid,” Resnick said.
Her comments come as the US is less than two weeks from a potential government shutdown, as lawmakers struggle to agree on a short-term spending bill — an impasse that could also have repercussions on military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Resnick said that in the past, the bureau had been unable to process new licenses or new military sales for any partner, including Taiwan, during a shutdown, except in an emergency.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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