Taiwan is now entering a period of maximum danger from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to accelerating Chinese military challenge now emboldened by a shocking dip in credibility American strategy occasioned by its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan.
This means that there is a much greater chance that in the next one to three years, CCP leader Xi Jinping () could order the PLA to invade Taiwan because he thinks the PLA can. win and that Americans can be dissuaded from coming to Taiwan’s aid in time. .
It is still possible for Taiwan and Washington to successfully diminish Xis’ confidence and slow his momentum, but in Taipei and Washington there must be a new urgency, starting with an open recognition of the growing cumulative threats posed by the PCC / APL.
The most serious looming Chinese threat is that Xi Jinping may soon achieve parity or nuclear superiority and decide that he can deter and deter Washington from militarily defending Taiwan. So far, US President Joe Biden has shown no sign of action to counter the LPA’s trend towards nuclear superiority; his party even shrinks from the modernization investments needed to maintain the current aging strategic nuclear stockpile as a credible deterrent, let alone investments in advanced missile defenses and related technologies.
After three decades of developing nuclear missile technology and building production capacity, China has chosen the advent of the Biden administration to strive more openly for nuclear superiority.
This year alone, commercial satellite imagery revealed that the PLA Rocket Force is currently building at least 346 new missile silos in several areas. Each silo can contain a new version of the DF-41 10-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Thus, a potential of 3,460 new PLA nuclear warheads, added to estimates of 350 current warheads, as well as nuclear cruise missiles on bombers, indicates a potential total number of PLA warheads of more than 4. 000 well before 2025.
In addition, Vladimir Putin could add his 1,400 or more warheads for joint nuclear coercion against the United States; this is one of the real results of a decade of deepening Sino-Russian military cooperation. China’s aid to Pakistani, North Korean and Iranian arsenals adds to the complexity.
At the same time, preparations for the PLA invasion of Taiwan are accelerating, mainly with the integration of civilian means of sea and air transport, and more aggressive exercises and soundings.
Large civilian 15,000 to 30,000 ton roll-on-roll-off ferries were previously assessed as being responsible for transporting the bulk of PLA armored and mechanized units to captured Taiwan ports. Now they could be fitted with special ramps to join the PLA’s large amphibious assault ships to launch amphibious armored vehicles into the water. This could triple the number of amphibious armored vehicles that can be launched against beaches in Taiwan.
In addition, nearly 1,500 PLA helicopters and Chinese civilians could target Taiwan’s airfields with thousands of troops each. The captured airfields could then receive part of the 3,000 Chinese airliners manufactured by Boeing and Airbus, capable of deploying troops and equipment to speed up invasion operations. Added to the surprise, such a rapid consolidation is vital in deterring or countering any American defensive response in support of Taiwan, and therefore to the victory of the PLA.
Recent reports indicate that China has launched a major effort to build transportation infrastructure across the Taiwan Strait in Fujian Province, which could see the construction of 12 new ports and 10 new airports, including a new major airport. in Pingtan County less than 165 km from the outskirts of Taipei. . Such signals emphasize intention.
Perhaps the only glimmer of hope today is that the shock of the rapid collapse of the 20-year US-led effort to prevent Taliban domination in Afghanistan, followed by the humiliating and inept withdrawal that stunned many allies of the United States and exposed the weakness of NATO has resulted in the realization among the allies that they must now do much more in their own defense.
Greg Sheridan, senior Australian columnist for The Australian, said on September 6, 2021: If the Western alliance fails, it will be because almost all of the allies of the United States except Israel and Britain , have based everything on the idea that America will solve all their military problems and therefore they do not take responsibility for themselves.
President Tsai Ing-wens () ‘s response to the disaster in Afghanistan has been swift and appropriate. On August 18, she said: I want to tell everyone that the only option for Taiwan is to make us stronger, more united and more determined in our determination to protect ourselves.
On August 21, reports indicated that words would be followed by decisive action: Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense to propose a special budget of NT $ 200 billion (US $ 7.22 billion) for the National Institute of Science and Chungshan technology, especially to increase its manufacturing. native air defense, anti-ship and land attack missiles.
In an August 18 interview, President Biden argued that he would react if China attacked Taiwan.
While welcome, this statement was at odds with decades of U.S. ambiguity on this issue and the Biden administration did not make it clear that it was a new addition to the foundation of U.S. policy. with regard to Taiwan on the Communiques / Taiwan Relations Act / Six Assurances.
Regardless of Bidens’ intention, there is now a need for him to make preparations equivalent to a level of wartime emergency, as the danger of a Chinese attack grows dangerously close.
First of all, there is a need for the administration to abandon its strategic position for 2021 of trying to balance cooperation with China with competition with China.
The CCP offers America and Asia only the second and nothing of the first. The CCP increasingly understands an existential nuclear threat, accelerates its military threats against Taiwan, Japan and other allies, and conducts an integrated global campaign of propaganda, diplomatic and economic warfare designed to humiliate and weaken Washington, its alliances. and its resolution. Everything is phrased in language that designates the United States as China’s enemy and designed to rally the Chinese people behind Xis’ CCP’s war footing.
Washington now faces serious threats from a Taliban friendly to the PRC and more than $ 83 billion in abandoned US weapons with which it will reinvigorate the global Islamist terrorist hydra.
Washington must revise its strategy in Asia to give top priority to aggressively appealing and combating China’s strategic and military threats.
There is no other choice but to abandon the new 2010 START treaty with Russia which limits the United States to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads.
First, it would be appropriate to start by putting the nuclear warheads back into multi-warhead ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles, which would bring the number of US warheads to around 3,800.
Even after a Sino-Russian first strike, there would be sufficient American retaliatory capacity to ensure their destruction. This would neutralize any hope of the CCP and Russia that they will be successful in nuclear coercion operations.
Second, the United States must now abandon previous policies that sought to limit Taiwan’s offensive military capabilities.
This should begin with a commitment by the United States to help Taiwan secure a force of 1,000 long-range offensive ballistic missiles by 2024, being ready to transfer the balance as Taiwan increases its production of local missiles. Such a number will go a long way to dull and thus deter an attempted PLA invasion.
Third, Washington should vigorously encourage the Taiwan-Japan dialogue to better coordinate defense, as China is likely to seek to occupy the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan, both as a prelude to an invasion and to further break the first island chain. . Defense cooperation with Taiwan is expected to be a major project of the Australia-India-Japan-US Quad.
For the CCP, a war to conquer Taiwan and kill its democracy will be the first in a series of efforts to defeat Asian democracies, intimidate recalcitrant nations, and impose regional and global hegemony. All democracies, but especially Taiwan, Japan and the United States, can and should prevent this catastrophe by ensuring that the CCP never tries to attack Taiwan.
Richard D. Fisher Jr. is a senior researcher at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
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