TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Aug. 17, the Pentagon released an annual report on Chinese military power for the U.S. Congress tor review when drafting legislation over the upcoming year.
The report suggests that China’s air force has been training for strikes on U.S. military targets, as well as those of allies in the Pacific region, and it also includes a detailed assessment of China's military prospects with regard to conquering Taiwan.
As China pursues a program of military modernization, including aspects of “mechanization” and “informatization,” the People’s Liberation Army is steadily increasing their capabilities for a larger range of conflict scenarios.
"Over the last three years, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets," notes the report.
The report recognizes that it is crucial for China to maintain regional stability at present, since its own economic growth is crucial for its military modernization program and its strategies of political coercion over neighboring countries.
In regards to Taiwan, the report emphasizes that China “continues to employ persuasion and coercion vis-à-vis Taiwan,” and that “Taiwan’s advantages continue to decline as China’s modernization efforts continue.”
A positive aspect of the report is that the U.S. Department of Defense clearly considers that situation of Taiwan a priority for the region, with one entire chapter (of six) dedicated to the possibiltiy of Chinese military action being taken against the country, as well as an appendix listing recent data on military force comparison between China and Taiwan.
The executive summary of the report warns that China and the PLA forces continue to pose a serious threat to Taiwan, noting that Beijing has never renounced the use of force.
Further, the report notes that the “circumstances that would prompt the use of force remain ambiguous, preserving China’s flexibility.” According to the report, Beijing has in the past indicated that any of the following developments could potentially trigger a military campaign aimed at annexing Taiwan.
1. A Formal declaration of Taiwan independence
2. Undefined moves toward Taiwan independence
3. Internal unrest on Taiwan
4. Taiwan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons
5. Indefinite delays in the resumption of cross-Strait dialogue
6. Foreign intervention in Taiwan’s internal affairs
7. Foreign forces stationed on Taiwan
In the event of a military campaign, China could potentially attempt a military blockade to force capitulation, or may attempt a blitzkrieg type amphibious invasion. Should foreign forces seek to intervene “China would try to delay effective intervention and seek victory in a high-intensity, limited war of short duration.”
In agreement with other recent reports, the Pentagon also notes that China may opt for smaller limited campaigns targeting Taiwan’s outlying islands, like Kinmen, Matsu, or Taiping Island in the South China Sea.
The report also details the political and economic aspects of Chinese strategy in the region, noting “China uses the Belt and Road Initiative to develop strong ties with other countries to shape their interests to align with China’s and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues.”
As is well known, part of China’s plan is to form critical economic links with neighboring countries, while isolating Taiwan to such a degree that no neighboring country would venture to oppose Beijing's militaristic ambitions in the event of cross-strait military engagement.
The Pentagon report on "Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018" may be viewed here.
China's Eastern Theater Forces (Image from U.S. Department of Defense)