Taiwan laid out plans to challenge what it described as China’s “gray zone threats” to shift the balance of power in the region and possibly take the democratically ruled island without fighting a battle.
The Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense outlined in a biennial military strategy report on Tuesday how it aims to counter what it describes as Beijing’s pressure campaign. It cited warplane incursions as well as speedboats ramming its coast guard vessels, and accused China of engaging in “cognitive warfare” to sway Taiwanese public opinion.
“Its intimidating behavior does not only consume our combat power and shake our faith and morale, but also attempts to alter or challenge the status quo in the Taiwan Strait to ultimately achieve its goal of ‘seizing Taiwan without a fight,’” the report said. The military was committed to protecting the island’s sovereignty and democratic system, the ministry said, laying out its strategy for countering China.
“The first and foremost defense undertaking is to prevent war and deter any external military threats, and our overall defense power shall be employed to defend our homeland, magnify the costs and risks entailed by the PRC’s invasion, and ultimately protect the lives and properties of the people,” it said, referring to the People’s Republic of China government on the mainland.
Beijing claims the island is part of its territory — threatening to take it by force if necessary — but the governing Democratic Progressive Party argues it’s already an independent country.
Taiwan has re-emerged as a flash point in U.S.-China ties in recent months. Washington has been moving to help the government in Taipei take on a bigger role in international organizations like the U.N., and President Joe Biden said last month that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s aid if it was attacked by China, comments the White House later said didn’t mark a change in policy.
Tuesday’s report lays out how the Taiwanese military plans to expand the range of its military deterrence to the Chinese coast to create “hostile” embarking and seafaring phases for People’s Liberation Army forces should they attempt to cross the Taiwan Strait.
“The PLA’s weakness is in the phase of sea transit,” the report said. “The Armed Forces must take full advantage of the natural barrier of the Taiwan Strait and fight in a resilient manner.
“We should not limit ourselves to waiting for the enemy’s landing groups to sail through the Strait, but should also use measures to force the enemy to assemble forces at airfields or ports further away from areas opposite Taiwan.”
Given China’s overwhelming superiority in terms of manpower and resources, Taiwan plans to utilize asymmetric tactics to nullify the PLA’s advantages, such as countering Chinese airborne operations with mobile surface-to-air missiles and attacking large ships with small, fast and resilient vessels. Defensive cruise missiles and land and sea mines would be key platforms to deter a Chinese attempts to land on Taiwan.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told CNN last month that she was confident the U.S. would come to the island’s defense if China tried to invade, adding that the “threat from China is increasing every day” while also confirming the presence of some U.S. troops on Taiwan.
Beijing has been stepping up its military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Tsai’s government, carrying out around 200 flights by PLA military planes into Taiwan’s air-defense-identification zone last month alone.
Last week, Beijing hit Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Legislative Yuan President You Si-kun with sanctions that it said could be followed by criminal prosecution for “fanning up hostility across the Taiwan Strait and maliciously smearing the mainland.”
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