Monumental: What Happens When The U.S. Arms Taiwan?

Todd Moses
May 27, 2024

Defense Analyst says China will likely use armed autonomous robots in potential invasion of Taiwan.

Inputs that matter: Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who promised weapons would be delivered when he visited Taiwan last year, said the Chinese military's "armada" last week had sent a powerful message to the United States.

  • "We are moving forward on those weapons systems. I'd like to see it faster, but they are forthcoming," McCaul told reporters after meeting Taiwan President Lai Ching-te as head of a bipartisan delegation of five other U.S. lawmakers.
  • He added that Taiwan needs to have sufficient weapons to show Chinese President Xi Jinping that the risk outweighs the rewards of invading the island.
  • "President Lai and I, as always, had a very sobering and straightforward conversation about the threat this island faces from its neighbor to the north, and it's a real one."

The opportunity: China has already set a new normal in the Taiwan Strait, steadily ramping up military pressure on the self-governed island.

  • Taiwan military expert Chieh Chung says drills focused on encircling the island and simulating a full-scale attack minus the actual landing of troops.
  • He thinks the inclusion of all of Taiwan's off-shore islands demonstrates China's plan to eliminate facilities that could launch a counter-attack against the PLA.

Zoom in: McCaul added that Taiwan should focus on maritime weapons like Harpoon anti-ship missiles to stymie an invasion.

  • He also assured that, no matter who won the U.S. presidential election in November, U.S. support for Taiwan would remain.

Between the lines: Though lawmakers from the U.S. and other countries regularly travel to Taiwan, China views such visits as provocative and supportive of "Taiwan independence' separatist forces."

  • Last Thursday's military drills were accompanied by a tirade against the man Beijing said had triggered it all: William Lai, the island's new president.
  • President Lai's alleged crime is that in his inauguration speech on Monday, he used the word China to describe China.
  • Beijing says that in doing so, Mr Lai revealed his genuine belief that Taiwan is not China and that they are two different countries.

Follow the money: In 2021, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Philip Davidson, the retiring commander of U.S. military joint forces in the Indo-Pacific, expressed concern that China was accelerating its timeline to unify with Taiwan through amphibious invasion.

  • This assessment shows that the United States is up against an urgent deadline to head off a Chinese attack on Taiwan.
  • China's patient, long-term Taiwan policy, which treats unification as a "historical inevitability," together with its modest record of military action abroad, suggests that Beijing's more probable plan is to intensify the policy it is already pursuing gradually: a creeping encroachment into Taiwan's airspace, maritime space, and information space.
  • The world should expect to see more of what has come to be known as "gray-zone operations"—coercive activities in the military and economic domains that fall short of war.

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