A new US arms package for Taiwan will help boost the self-ruled island’s ability to inflict a bloody nose on China in the attempt of an attack, enough to make Beijing think twice before any military adventure.
But Taiwan, which is expected to vote in a new government next month less friendly to China, needs advanced weapons such as the latest fighter jets or submarine-making technology if it stands a chance of holding off a concerted Chinese assault before U.S. forces come to the rescue.
“The idea is to complicate China’s scenarios, to make them pause, to get them to think twice before they attack,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.
China quickly criticized this week’s $1.83 billion deal, the first arms sales to Taiwan that the Obama administration has approved in four years, saying it interferes with its sovereignty over Taiwan. The deal includes two Navy frigates, combat systems for mine-sweepers, missiles, amphibious attack vehicles and communications systems.
Compared to China’s ambitious build-up of its military, the world’s largest, Taiwan’s arms deals are aimed at survivability.
Taiwan is highly vulnerable to a quick strike, experts say. Chinese fighter jets could scream across the narrow Taiwan Strait in minutes and take out Taiwan’s air fields, while China rains down some of the hundreds of missiles it is believed to have targeted at the island.
Still, maintaining an updated stockpile of military equipment and munitions — like the items in this week’s arms deal — is as important as having “big-ticket” items to sustain Taiwan’s self-defense, said Shirley Kan, a retired Congressional researcher who has tracked U.S. arms sales to Taiwan since 1990
On Friday, China’s influential Global Times said Beijing would maintain its military superiority no matter what weapons the United States sold Taiwan.
Chinese news agency Xinhua said the arms sale will only serve the interests of those seeking Taiwan’s independence and damage peace and stability across the Strait.
Military drills in South China Sea
China’s military carried out war games in the disputed South China Sea this week, with warships, submarines and fighter jets simulating cruise missile strikes on ships, the official People’s Liberation Army daily said Friday.
In a front page story, the newspaper said the drill was carried out on Wednesday across “several thousand square kilometers” of waters somewhere in the South China Sea.
The forces were split into two teams, red and blue, as military commanders threw various scenarios at them, including an accidental missile strike on a commercial ship operated by a third party, the paper said.
The warships also simulated deflecting anti-ship missile attacks, and operating in concert with submarines, early warning aircraft and fighter jets, the report added.
On Sunday, the defense ministry said the navy had recently carried out drills in the South China Sea. It was not clear if the exercises referred to by the newspaper and these drills were the same.