For decades, U.S. presidents of both parties have given lip service to the idea that we support Taiwan’s security, as we are legally obligated to do. Actual concrete action has been another matter, as these same presidents have been nervous about offending the communist Chinese. As a result, Taiwan has had to make do with aging ships, submarines and munitions while the ever-present threat of a Chinese attack looms.
President Trump is taking a decidedly difference stance toward China, starting with the fact that he expects much more than China has delivered in terms of reining in their buddy Bowl Cut Jr. and North Korea. He also believes in a more general sense that if China is going to act in a manner contrary to America’s strategic interests, it should be treated like a country that does that.
This is good news for Taiwan, which is about to receive $1.4 billion worth of arms upgrades from the United States, despite the predictable protests from Shanghai:
The arms sale includes such sorely needed equipment as anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, though that doesn’t make up for two decades of neglect by past U.S. administrations. Washington is obligated under the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island if it comes under attack, so the smart policy is to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself and deter a Beijing invasion.
Twenty years ago military experts derided the idea of a Chinese invasion as a “million man swim,” since the People’s Liberation Army lacked even the amphibious landing capability to move its forces across the 110-mile Taiwan Strait. Today China has landing craft, advanced fighters, ships and submarines. Shore-based missiles make it dangerous for the U.S. Navy to enter the Taiwan Strait in a crisis.
Taiwan’s air force still flies some F-5 fighters bought in 1985, and its navy’s two deployable submarines date from the same era. A 2016 report from the RAND Corporation estimated that Taiwan needs to spend $25.3 billion on new weapons over the next 20 years to create a credible deterrent against Chinese attack. The most critical need is for more F-16 fighters so Taiwan’s air force isn’t overwhelmed in the early days of a conflict, as would be the case now.
Taiwan deserves some blame for failing to spend enough on its own defense, but President Tsai Ing-wen is committed to buying more U.S. arms and reinvigorating the domestic arms industry. The island began a project to build its own submarines earlier this year, but it will need American help and the Trump Administration can move with dispatch to provide it.
The American left will surely fret that this inflames tensions with China because the Chinese always oppose anything that enhances Taiwan’s security. The Chinese have insisted since the Maoist revolution of 1948 that Taiwan by rights belongs to them, whereas the U.S. has always seen Taiwan as effectively the exile home of the true, free Chinese regime.
But at any rate, this move makes war with China far less likely in a strategic sense. Given China’s improved capacity to launch an attack, it is absolutely essential to sow doubt in their minds by enhancing Taiwan’s ability to put up a defense of its own before American troops can arrive on the scene. If the Chinese have reason to believe they will suffer heavy losses in an initial attack, the chances that they will choose to launch one are greatly reduced - and that lessens the chances that America gets pulled into a war with China that no one wants.
It also sends a signal to Shanghai that America is done playing pussy foot with a regime that has been overtly hostile to the human rights of its own people, and has acted both economically and geo-politically in a manner that challenges the best interests of the United States. China is not a purely communistic country in an economic sense. They’re seeking economic growth and access to global markets. That should give them an incentive to play nice with America, but to this point U.S. presidents have given them little reason to fear consequences if they don’t.
Today’s decision changes that calculation considerably. If the Chinese want to see that change, they can start by accepting the independence of Taiwan, and they can further the effort by getting North Korea under control. Because an America that doesn’t fear offending Shanghai will do so on its terms if the Chinese won’t. Maybe today that reality is a little more clear to them.
Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain.com
A new edition of Dan’s book “Powers and Principalities” is now available in hard copy and e-book editions. Follow all of Dan’s work, including his series of Christian spiritual warfare novels, by liking his page on Facebook.Commenting Policy
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