Allies of Washington might decline or only provide limited support to the US if a conflict breaks out across the Taiwan Strait, the Rand Corporation said in a report on Tuesday.
The Santa Monica, California-based think tank’s report, titled US Major Combat Operations in the Indo-Pacific, examined the willingness of US allies and partners to provide air combat support to US operations in the event of a major combat contingency in the Indo-Pacific region.
Twelve significant regional players were identified as the focus of the study — Taiwan, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
It proposed four hypothetical scenarios: a conflict over Taiwan, a second Korean war, a maritime conflict in the South China Sea and a major stability operation on the Korean Peninsula following a North Korean collapse.
The assessments were based on factors such as national interests, fear of retaliation, domestic politics, public statements by senior officials and the judgement of local experts.
Regarding the scenario of a conflict over Taiwan, only Australia, Japan and Singapore might provide “limited support” to the US, while other countries would be likely to decline support, the report said.
Australia has shown a willingness to invest more heavily to support regional operations in the Indo-Pacific region, but the assistance it provides to defend against maritime invasions might be minimal, it said.
Japan considers Taiwan “an extremely crucial partner and an important friend,” which demonstrates the nation’s closeness to Taiwan, it said.
Singapore is likely to see a Taiwan crisis initiated by China as a violation of its commitment to regional stability and a risk to be dominated by China if such an attack is successful, the report said.
The assessment showed that while Taiwan is most likely to support the US in a cross-strait conflict, “Taiwanese support under every other China-related scenario examined in this report is ambiguous at best and unlikely at worst” for fear of serious repercussions, Rand Corp said.
With the survival of Taiwan’s democratic governance and status as a de facto independent country at stake, non-China land invasion scenarios would probably significantly elevate the chances of Taiwanese support, it said.
Taiwan is fostering closer relations with the US and other like-minded democratic nations as the country has faced increasing hostility from China since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016, it said.
The New Southbound Policy launched by Tsai is an effort to diversify the nation’s economy away from overdependence on China, it said.
Taiwan’s security strategy is “multifaceted and largely dependent on sustained US support,” aimed at blunting Chinese advantages, the report said.
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