Defending Taiwan: Introduction

Although there is still a war raging in Ukraine, Taiwan is increasingly on the minds of US diplomats and military leaders. Following President Biden’s trip to Asia and his comments on the possibility of the US militarily supporting Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack there are many questions being raised about how the US might intervene to defend Taiwan if the PRC launches an attack. Policy debates on the shape and size of a potential US intervention are taking on a new importance in the aftermath of Biden’s ambiguous remarks in Tokyo. The president was less than clear, whether by design or circumstance, on the conditions needed to be met in order to trigger a US military response. For example, is Washington willing to intervene in the event of a Chinese military blockade of Taiwan, or will the red line only be crossed after the first Chinese troops land on Taiwanese soil?

Practically speaking, there are considerable obstacles US forces will need to overcome to successfully defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack. Geography and force posture are two of the most crucial. Taiwan is situated in the PRC’s front yard. Just 110 miles of water separate the island-nation from the Mainland. This is an advantage that cannot be negated or minimized. Hundreds of tactical aircraft and ballistic missiles, dozens of warships and thousands of troops ready for embarkation are normally based in close proximity to the Taiwan Strait. During a buildup to hostilities, reinforcements will pour into the Eastern Theater Command area and greatly increase the combat power available for an operation against Taiwan. Considerably more combat power than the US and select allied nations in the region could bring to bare or use as a deterrent. Improvements in Chinese air and naval capabilities over the last twelve years also make the formula more than a numbers game. The US forces still maintain a qualitative edge, but that is diminishing somewhat. Expanding capabilities, coupled with China’s already immense advantage in quantity might be enough to keep the US military at bay and unable to effectively influence the battle.

Periodically in the coming weeks, Today’s DIRT will examine the options available for the US to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, as well as taking a detailed look at the forces available to both the US and China.

9 thoughts on “Defending Taiwan: Introduction

  1. “Taiwan is increasingly on the minds of US diplomats and military leaders.”

    What, is the Chinatyrant Biden administration planning on helping China with its invasion?

    • Washington seems to be seriously considering defending Taiwan if China tries anything. They want to, at least. Doing it is another story entirely

      • “Washington” is hyperbole. Maybe a few junior managers at the FBI. Wray severely diminished the FBI’s hunt for CCP spies.

        It seems that a lot of the intel community and Pentagon have been bought off.

      • Right. And recently Wray comes out and points to China as the greatest strategic threat facing the US. Hardly news. We’ve all known this for a while

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  3. The big question is how good the PLAN is at ASW, and whether the US would try to close the Taiwan Strait. It’s rather hard to move heavy weaponry through the air, especially in a contested environment.

    The bad news for the Taiwanese is their navy is too little/too late to the submarine party. They have 2 somewhat-modern and 2 WWII-era subs, and they waited too long to try to build their own. That they finally started to move on building 8 of their own subs is almost certainly part of the reason the Red Chinese are looking at moving sooner rather than later.

    • ASW is going to plan a major role and so will air superiority. If China can gain and hold control of the skies over the Strait and at Taiwan, it will be almost impossible to sustain an airlift. Therefore, the sea route becomes even more important.

      And yeah, Taiwan is trying to redouble its submarine procurement efforts but the force is limited now. Definitely one reason China might move sooner than later.

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