The increasing procurement of advanced weaponry from mainland Peoples Republic of China should put Taiwan, the Republic of China; on its heels. With the announcement of new ballistic missiles which apparently can counter warships (Potential carrier groups from the U.S. in support of Taiwan) and the newly discovered stealth prototype the Chengdu J-20 should somewhat heighten tensions between the two countries. Especially so when China’s President is thought to have tried to cosy up to the U.S. and vice versa through business deals and new found diplomatic relations in the recent visit where he was welcomed to the White House in full state visit honours.
Failed missile drill tests
Attended by Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou a live fire drill of missiles was presented to what was later to be called a military failure. It is considered a failure since 5 out of 19 missiles failed to hit their targets. According to a BBC article the drills were a message sent in regards to inadequacies in Taiwanese defence.
The “Taiwan Relations Act” (TRA) an enacted law passed in 1979 by the U.S. stipulates that the U.S. has to provide Taiwan with “arms of a defensive character”.
However this does not mean that the U.S. is required to come to military aid if Taiwan is attacked. With the rising of China’s military strength, it brings into question, whether Taiwan has a force adequate enough to defend itself. Along with thousands of missiles pointed toward Taiwan by the Peoples Republic of China, Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy is all but under threat as mainland China has not receded its comments on a threatening stance against Taiwan. To which it stated that reunification is the main goal and stated that it would use force against Taiwan if it had to.
The Defence Secretary Andrew Yang of Taiwan said to the BBC:
“China still holds the option to use force against Taiwan. They have never renounced the use of force. We consider this a direct threat against us, so we need to consolidate our armed forces.”
According to the Taipei Times · missiles used during the live military drill included the Taiwanese made Tien Kung II “Sky Bow” (TK-II) and US-made AIM-7 “Sparrow.” It is not clear however which missiles failed however according to the Taipei Times a military spokesperson stated that the indigenous TK-II “performed handsomely”.
The military drill also showcased ageing F-16A/B American made fighter jets which are again said to be outdated with the U.S. using the more updated F-16-C aircraft in theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The French Mirage 2000 is also considered to be too costly while problems occurred in March 2010 where the engine was found to faulty however Taiwan was promptly compensated by France.
Though it is largely discussed whether or not that these fighter aircraft which have been tagged with either problems or have been called “outdated” have the capability to defend Taiwan; if attacked. Which is why Taiwanese officials have pushed for the F-16C which is a much more advanced aircraft. With newly discovered threat of the Chendgu J-20 stealth prototype, Taiwan will really have problems in countering Chinese military aircraft in the future. Is the F-16C at-all usable in Taiwan’s forces in terms of countering supposed 5th generation Chinese aircraft? If anything the Taiwanese government should push for the F-35 variants to also have equal technological capability. Though this will unlikely take place since this would not play out well for President Barack Obama and his administration since it is trying to strengthen ties with China. But it has to be said, Taiwan has the right to self determination and should not be under the threat of an age old communist government who seized power and which continues to threaten and will not withdraw its comments on using force.
Will China attack?
China has the military to effectively attack Taiwan and possibly take control of if, if the U.S. does not intervene. However will they attack?
It is doubted by some that they will. This is backed up by the fact that they don’t want an economic mess to take place. If they attacked Taiwan, they would have diplomatic problems as well as embargoes sprouting out from a lot of countries, perhaps including the United States, one of its largest exporter of goods and collectively the 27 countries in the European Union (EU). It would hurt main land China more than it would do good in attacking another country. However the current Chinese leadership is not stupid. If they can slowly and progressively link economic trade with Taiwan, they can slowly coerce control. Which is why protests took place in 2009 when Taiwan and China linked medical trade agreements and economic pacts.
To conclude the answer, it is highly unlikely that China will attack in the near future due to economic reasons.
The U.S. and Chinese relationship
Relations with the U.S. and China have been tightening and more binding with the thought of economic advantages in being friends with each other. Any new sale of advanced weaponry to Taiwan would be considered by China a huge blow to diplomatic relations. In 2009 the U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the sale of the 2nd package worth $6 billion in military equipment to Taiwan. – The Chinese were infuriated and cancelled military exchanges and security talks. Would the U.S. further disappoint the Chinese by selling further advanced armaments including anti-ballistic missiles and advanced aircraft to Taiwan to increase its defensive capability? In what China would see as a huge undermining of its authority and strategic opinion of the islands defensive capabilities.