Americans want to use what they have learned from arming Ukraine to help Taiwan prepare for a potential Chinese attack, the NYT says
The US is seeking to reshape Taiwan’s defense systems in light of the experience gained from sending military aid to Ukraine, which is currently locked in a conflict with Russia, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed American officials.
Washington’s new strategy focuses on providing Taiwan with asymmetric defense capabilities that would help it stave off a much more powerful force, the paper said.
The latest arms purchases Taiwan made from the US reflect this changing approach, the NYT said, adding that mobile rocket platforms, F-16 fighter jets, and anti-ship missiles “are better suited for repelling an invading force.” At the same time, Washington has reportedly discouraged Taipei from buying MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and M1A2 Abrams tanks.
Analysts told the NYT what future purchases could consist of: “That would include smart mines, anti-ship cruise missiles, cybersecurity capability and special forces who can neutralize Chinese advance teams, and air defense systems,” James Stavridis, a retired four-star admiral and ex-dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, explained.
US officials also consider mobile land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Stinger anti-air missiles to be critical for the island nation’s defense. According to the paper, the US might also share intelligence with the Taiwanese military to make its actions more effective in case of a conflict, as it currently does in Ukraine.
“The aim is to turn Taiwan into what some officials call a ‘porcupine’ – a territory bristling with armaments and other forms of U.S.-led support that appears too painful to attack,” the NYT said.
Arms imports from the US have drastically increased over the past decade, the news outlet says. Since 2010, the US has announced over $23 billion in arms sales to the island nation, according to a 2021 Pentagon report. In 2020, the US authorized arms deals with Taiwan worth more than $5 billion in total. The sales included advanced drones, long-range missiles and artillery, as well as anti-ship missiles.
In light of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Washington is also reportedly considering economic sanctions it can impose on Beijing if it attacks Taiwan. According to the NYT, US officials are discussing whether they could replicate the measures.
However, Washington is wary of going too far in its support, officials and analysts told the NYT. “Are we clear about what deters China and what provokes China?” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the US, told the paper. “The answer to that is ‘no,’ and that’s dangerous territory.”
According to the NYT, the administration of former President Donald Trump considered stationing US troops in Taiwan, and the White House and Pentagon also proposed sending a high-level military delegation to the island. Both ideas were dropped because they were deemed too provocative.
On Monday, President Joe Biden told journalists that America would engage militarily to defend Taiwan in case of an attack. When asked whether the US would support the island through military means, the president said yes, adding that Washington has a commitment.
The statement sparked an angry reaction from Beijing, which urged the US not to underestimate the Chinese people’s resolve when it comes to sovereignty and territorial integrity. The White House rushed to tone down Biden’s statement by saying the policy on Taiwan has not changed, and what Biden meant was that Washington would continue to supply Taiwan with the arms it needs to strengthen its defenses.
Taiwan has repeatedly accused China of violating its defense zones with aircraft and warships. Beijing has regularly flexed its military muscles near the island, buzzing it with large aircraft and sending in military vessels. China considers the island an integral part of its territory.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, when the remnants of the nationalist government fled the mainland after their defeat in the civil war, but never formally declared independence from China. The US does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but enjoys close military cooperation with the island, an issue that has long been a thorn in the side of US-China relations.
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