Se­cure Tai­wan, se­cure peace in Asia

China won’t be tempted to swal­low an is­land bristling with up­graded weaponry

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By James A. Lyons and Richard D. Fisher Jr. James A. Lyons, a re­tired Navy ad­mi­ral, is for­mer com­man­der of the U.S. Pa­cific Fleet, and Richard D. Fisher Jr. is a se­nior fel­low with the In­ter­na­tional As­sess­ment and Strat­egy Cen­ter.

Even if not by de­sign, Pres­i­dent Trump made a clear demon­stra­tion of Amer­i­can re­solve by strik­ing Syria as Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ar­rived for his April 6 meet­ing at Mar-a-Lago. Mr. Trump can fur­ther demon­strate U.S. re­solve by mov­ing quickly to strengthen the de­fense of Tai­wan, a strat­egy that has suc­cess­fully pre­vented war on the Tai­wan Strait for more than 65 years. A free Tai­wan has been an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment for Amer­ica’s strat­egy of pro­mot­ing de­fense co­op­er­a­tion and al­liances among Asia’s democ­ra­cies in or­der to de­ter war in Asia. In June 1950, when China and Soviet-as­sisted North Korea at­tacked South Korea, Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man or­dered the 7th Fleet to de­ter a Chi­nese at­tack against Tai­wan, pre­vent­ing the Korean con­flict from be­com­ing a wider war in­volv­ing Soviet and more U.S. forces. To­day, Tai­wan’s geostrate­gic po­si­tion pro­tects Ja­pan, makes more dif­fi­cult any at­tack against the Philip­pines and puts a brake on China’s grow­ing global mil­i­tary am­bi­tions.

Tai­wan’s evo­lu­tion into a thriv­ing mar­ket democ­racy over the last 25 years both af­firms U.S. strat­egy and stands as an ex­am­ple to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP) dic­ta­tor­ship and China’s peo­ple that po­lit­i­cal free­doms strengthen eco­nomic free­doms. Al­low­ing both would re­quire the CCP to re­lin­quish power for the ben­e­fit of the Chi­nese peo­ple. Un­will­ing to do so, it in­stead hy­pes ex­ter­nal threats and pre­pares to in­vade Tai­wan.

It is pos­si­ble that by the early 2020s, China will have the com­bi­na­tion of ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­quired to in­vade Tai­wan for the first time since the 1950s, in­clud­ing ac­cess to thou­sands of civil trans­port ships, and the mis­siles, air­craft and cy­ber as­sets to se­cure air su­pe­ri­or­ity. If it suc­ceeds, China will likely threaten Ja­pan’s Ryukyu Is­land Chain, which in­cludes the cru­cial mil­i­tary bases on Ok­i­nawa, and move to im­pose greater mil­i­tary con­trol over the South China Sea. By crush­ing Tai­wan’s democ­racy, the CCP hopes to break the U.S.-led al­liance sys­tem in Asia and prove that lib­eral democ­racy is on the global de­cline.

One out­come of the Trump-Xi meet­ing is that they will con­tinue to talk about how to end North Korea’s nu­clear mis­sile threats. China can be ex­pected to try to link any help to U.S. con­ces­sions on its support for Tai­wan. This should be re­jected with­out ar­gu­ment as China is largely re­spon­si­ble for North

Korea’s nu­clear mis­sile threat, and is likely ready to use a North Korean nu­clear cri­sis to di­vert U.S. at­ten­tion from mil­i­tary ac­tion against Tai­wan.

In­stead, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion should dou­ble down on the strat­egy that has worked: de­ter­ring a Chi­nese in­va­sion of Tai­wan by en­sur­ing that Tai­wan has the mil­i­tary means to de­feat such an in­va­sion. Since the 1950s, Wash­ing­ton has sold suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy to Tai­wan which, un­til re­cently, gave it a lo­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity that de­terred China.

But due to its mas­sive mil­i­tary buildup since the 1989 Tianan­men Mas­sacre, by the early 2020s China’s 1,500 mis­siles presently aimed at Tai­wan could grow to many thou­sands and it could have 3 to 4 times the num­ber of fourth-gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft than Tai­wan. By the 2030s, China’s mil­i­tary threats will in­clude com­bi­na­tions of di­rected-en­ergy weapons, and ad­vanced cy­ber, in­for­ma­tion and space com­bat sys­tems.

Amer­ica’s chal­lenge on the Tai­wan Strait is not to sim­ply al­low for up­grades in Tai­wan’s ex­ist­ing forces, such as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2011 de­ci­sion to sell up­grades for Taipei’s fourth-gen­er­a­tion F-16 fight­ers, but also to en­able Tai­wan to de­feat China’s in­va­sion threat of the 2020s and more ad­vanced threats of the 2030s.

Tai­wan re­quires “asym­met­ric” ca­pa­bil­i­ties such as small, cheap but highly ac­cu­rate cruise mis­siles it can man­u­fac­ture in the thou­sands to de­feat Chi­nese in­va­sion forces. Tai­wan also re­quires tech­nolo­gies nec­es­sary to ful­fill plans to make in­dige­nous sub­marines and an in­ex­pen­sive nextgen­er­a­tion fighter. A small num­ber of short take-off, more sur­viv­able F-35B fight­ers should be sold to Taipei to serve as mo­bile long-range sen­sor and elec­tronic war­fare plat­forms.

Taipei also re­quires new di­rected-en­ergy weapons that will al­low it to de­feat Chi­nese mis­siles and strike air­craft at far less cost than anti-mis­sile and anti-air­craft mis­siles. Tai­wan’s in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy sec­tor may prove to be a valu­able part­ner in ac­cel­er­at­ing U.S. en­ergy weapons de­vel­op­ments. Wash­ing­ton should con­sider new space launch co­op­er­a­tion with Tai­wan as part of a broader ef­fort to en­able its al­lies to help pre­vent China’s mil­i­tary dom­i­na­tion of Low Earth Or­bit. Tai­wan should also be in­vited to ob­serve and par­tic­i­pate in the U.S.-led RIMPAC ex­er­cises.

Be­fore the April Trump-Xi meet­ing, there were en­cour­ag­ing re­ports the ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­sid­er­ing a new arms sales pack­age for Tai­wan, larger than the one the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was plan­ning to re­lease, but with­held fol­low­ing Mr. Trump’s De­cem­ber phone call with Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing Wen. The ad­min­is­tra­tion may also be con­sid­er­ing the sale of F-35 fight­ers to Tai­wan.

Wash­ing­ton should pro­ceed quickly to re­al­ize such plans. It is a se­cure Tai­wan that will pre­vent war on the Tai­wan Strait, not any con­ces­sion on that support for du­bi­ous Chi­nese prom­ises to re­solve dis­putes over North Korea or trade. It is China that poses the grow­ing mil­i­tary threat to demo­cratic Tai­wan, to Ja­pan and to South Korea by its eco­nomic and mil­i­tary support for Py­ongyang. To sus­tain its al­liances and lead­er­ship in Asia, it is im­per­a­tive that Amer­ica demon­strate its re­solve by con­tin­u­ing to help de­fend the se­cu­rity of Tai­wan’s democ­racy.

By the early 2020s China’s 1,500 mis­siles presently aimed at Tai­wan could grow to many thou­sands and it could have 3 to 4 times the num­ber of fourth-gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft than Tai­wan.


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