Washington ‘Taking Lessons’ From Ukraine to Turn Taiwan Into Anti-China ‘Porcupine’: Report
15:39 GMT 25.05.2022 (Updated: 15:54 GMT 25.05.2022)
© AP Photo / Wally SantanaTaiwan's "frogmen" Marines perform close combat drills just a few kilometers from mainland China on the outlying island of Kinmen, Taiwan (File)
© AP Photo / Wally Santana
The People’s Liberation Army conducted large-scale “joint combat readiness patrols” in the sea and air space around Taiwan on Wednesday in the wake of comments by US President Joe Biden on Monday threatening to involve the US militarily if the PRC invades the island, citing a “commitment” to Taipei. Beijing slammed the comments as unacceptable.
The United States has redoubled its push to upgrade Taiwan’s defences, and is seeking to turn the island into a “porcupine” bristling with American weapons and other assistance to make it “too painful” for China to attack, The New York Times reports, citing US and Taiwanese officials said to be familiar with the matter.
Officials are said to be “taking lessons” from Washington’s experience arming Ukraine to apply to Taiwan to “repel” a hypothetical Chinese seaborne invasion, with the possibility that weapons assistance be complemented by intelligence support, even if the US doesn’t get involved directly.
Sources told the outlet that US efforts have included lobbying Taipei to buy arms fit for asymmetric warfare against a larger and more powerful adversary, discouraging the purchase of MH-60R Seahawk helicopters and M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, for example, while urging Taiwan to buy Harpoon anti-ship missiles, smart mines, drones, cybersecurity capability and systems to strengthen special forces.
Officials hope that the sanctions slapped on Russia over its special military operation in Ukraine may “send a message” to the Chinese, with Washington said to be “already discussing” ways to replicate the economic pain put on Moscow against Beijing in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.
Speaking in Tokyo on Monday, Biden reiterated for a third time since stepping into office that the US would get involved militarily if China invades Taiwan. The US president walked back his comments a day later, assuring that the US policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward the island “has not changed at all”.
Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin echoed Biden’s latter comments, saying America’s “One China Policy has not changed” and that the president was referring to the US commitment to provide Taiwan “the means to defend itself”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin slammed Biden following Monday’s comments. “The Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair that brooks no foreign interference. On issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, China has no room for compromise. No one should underestimate the strong resolve, determination and capability of the Chinese people in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Wang warned.
At the same time as Washington has encouraged Taipei to increase purchases of American-made military equipment, billions of dollars' worth of weapons already bought and paid for remain undelivered. Last month, Defense News calculated that the US had shipped just 16 percent of the weapons Taiwan ordered in 2019, with COVID blamed for the $14.2 billion backlog, which includes F-16 fighters, replacement parts for Patriot missile systems, and other equipment. Earlier this month, Taipei announced that the US howitzers it had ordered had been “crowded out” by Ukraine.
Taiwan broke off ties with the mainland in 1949 at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, when the US-backed nationalist Kuomintang forces fled to the island from Mao Zedong’s Communists. In the 1980s and 1990s, the two sides began to carefully restoring informal diplomatic ties and economic links, with trade between the two reaching $188.9 billion in 2021.