A New Deterrence Strategy for Taiwan

Recent aggressive moves by the Chinese military air force require a new deterrence strategy for Taiwan
October 9, 2021 Updated: October 10, 2021

Commentary

Capitalizing on the American strategic defeat in Afghanistan, the Chinese regime has stepped up incursions into Taiwan’s airspace in recent weeks.

From Oct. 1 to the present, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has flown 149 aircraft through Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). An ADIZ is a well-defined area used by many countries around the world for the purposes of identification, location, and air traffic control of aircraft in the interest of sovereignty, safety, and national security purposes. The flights consisted of a mix of aircraft, including Xian H-6 medium-range strategic bombers, Shenyan J-16 strike fighters, and other miscellaneous aircraft. The graphic below depicts the increase in incursions in recent days.

Epoch Times Photo

The H-6K bomber variant “carries six electro-optic or infrared imaging guided air-launched cruise missiles capable of precision striking [and incorporates the 1,500 km] CJ-20 air-launched Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) for conventional/nuclear strike,” according to the Air Force Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs. Thus, all of Taiwan was potentially within CJ-20 missile range during any flights containing H-6K bombers.

With the forced absorption of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) well in hand, the Chinese Communist Party CCP) has refocused its sights on the main prize—the avowed reintegration of Taiwan into China. These flight incursions are expressly a warning to any Taiwanese separatists, as this China Daily agitprop article boldly stated on Oct. 4: “China will take all measure necessary to crush any ‘Taiwan independence’ attempts, Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday. Military analysts said that the PLA drill on the day is a strong warning to both secessionists and their foreign supporters.”

Beijing has ratcheted up tensions in the Taiwan Strait, with its “wolf warrior” diplomats in parallel castigating the United States for continued support for Taipei, with Taiwan’s defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng recently stating that tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years.

Is US Support a Sound Basis for Taiwan’s Deterrence of China?

Since 1979, the United States has recognized the PRC as the sole legal government of China under the “one China” policy, acknowledging that Taiwan is part of China. But while the United States maintains formal diplomatic relations with the PRC, it also has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan (officially known as the Republic of China). This was codified in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which contains these three key points:

• Reaffirms as a commitment of the United States the preservation of human rights of the people of Taiwan.
• Declares that in furtherance of the principle of maintaining peace and stability in the Western Pacific area, the United States shall make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capacity as determined by the President and the Congress.
• Directs the President to inform the Congress promptly of threats to the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan, and any danger to the United States interests arising from such threats. Specifies that the President and the Congress shall determine the appropriate action in response to any such danger.

Since 1979, every U.S. administration has reaffirmed its commitment to this Act. It is believed that the Biden administration is committed to the Taiwan Relations Act, too. And of course, Biden’s ever-vigilant (and some say ever-compromised) national security and diplomatic team have loudly “put China on notice” for their continuing “intimidation” of Taiwan. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declared: “We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan, and we have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. That’s why we will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability.”

Epoch Times Photo
President Joe Biden briefly speaks to reporters about his Build Back Better legislation and Taiwan after returning to the White House in Washington, on Oct. 5, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

That was an interesting statement from Psaki, given U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s recent announcement that Washington may invoke the U.S. Defense Production Act in order to pressure the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and other companies in the semiconductor supply chain to disclose customer and other proprietary information about the production of semiconductors “within 45 days.” Careful observers could easily come to the conclusion that this is not exactly a confidence building exercise by Secretary Raimondo, and that the U.S. government is seeking to obtain semiconductor information critical to U.S. national defense before the walls come tumbling down and the CCP takes over Taiwan’s semiconductor industry.

Perhaps the aforementioned conveys an element of strategic ambiguity: What would President Joe Biden really do if China launched a cross-strait attack on Taiwan? Perhaps some positive actions taken by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen could stimulate the development of a backbone behind the words spoken by the Biden administration.

Time for a New Deterrence Strategy

Oct. 10 is Double Ten Day in Taiwan: the 110th anniversary of the Wuchang uprising in 1911 that triggered the Xinhai Revolution, which ended the Qing Dynasty and two millennia of dynastic rule in China. Also referred to as National Day, this would be a great opportunity to announce a comprehensive deterrence strategy aimed squarely at Beijing. And just to make the point more poignant to the CCP, the strategy could be organized according to the three components of the Three Warfares strategy, which was officially “endorsed by the CCP Central Committee and the Central Military Commission in 2003,” according to a report by the U.S. Office of of the Secretary of Defense. Turnabout is fair play!

navy helicopter
A U.S.-made S70C helicopter is guided by a navy soldier during take off from a frigate at the sea near the Suao navy harbour in Yilan, eastern Taiwan on April 13, 2018. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Here are some of the elements in a potential deterrence strategy divided among the Three Warfares, with an objective to demoralize and cause doubt in the minds of the PLA decision makers:

Psychological

• Invite the United States to station additional military forces temporarily in Taiwan (and on a rotational basis), as was begun during the Trump administration. Would the Chinese regime be willing to kill Americans in an attack on Taiwan?
• Invite the United States to deploy the first overseas detachment of Dark Eagle hypersonic missiles to Taiwan at the earliest possible date. The Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) is trailer-mounted (mobile) and has a range of at least 1,724 miles, which would put a damper on PLA operational planners and serve U.S. national security interests.
• Use the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act and the ongoing PLAAF incursions into the Taiwan ADIZ to renew the request for the F-35 stealth aircraft and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
• Continue to advertise the deployment of the “Yun Feng” (Cloud Peak) medium-range surface-to-surface missile and future variants/improvements, which was confirmed here.

Media

• Conduct a coordinated media campaign with other countries in the region to expose CCP/PLA aggression, including reciprocal media agreements to ensure widespread coverage.
• Publicize widely all joint operations with foreign military units: before, during, and after.
• Leverage sympathetic media around the world in an integrated campaign to expose Chinese intimidation.
• Conduct and widely publicize nation-to-nation/leader-to-leader talks with countries in the region; also with European Union countries and the United States.

Legal

• Build on the recent Japan-Taiwan security talks to sign a mutual defense treaty. Japan is already examining options in the event Taiwan is attacked by the PLA. Other related actions with Japan: expand military contacts and joint operations among all services; facilitate reciprocal port visits of naval ships; consider stationing of JSDF personnel on Taiwan (ideally an F-35B aircraft detachment, including maintenance and logistics support).
• Encourage neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and Malaysia to create a new security alliance aimed at countering the Chinese regime’s encroachment on territorial waters and other aggressive moves. This could include regularly scheduled joint naval and coast guard operations in contested areas.
• Invite continued deployment of British, French, and German navies to the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait for freedom of navigation operations in support of the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and as a deterrent to PLA Navy aggression in the region.

Conclusion

With the increasing pressure from the Chinese regime, especially PLAAF incursions into the Taiwan ADIZ, it is past time for the development of a comprehensive deterrent strategy to head off a PLA attack on Taiwan. The above measures as part of a Three Warfares-centric strategy are a starter list to which many more elements can be added.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.