TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A panel of experts on Tuesday (July 21) warned that China could attack one of Taiwan's smaller islands, resulting in a "low-intensity" conflict between the two countries.
The recent frequent intrusions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) coupled with the news that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is planning on holding war games in August to prepare for a future assault on the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands, 東沙群島), has raised concerns about a conflict erupting in the Taiwan Strait. According to a panel of military analysts who met on Tuesday, there is a high possibility of low-level military conflict in the Taiwan Strait, and because such low-level conflicts often have fewer indicators, they said it is vital that Taiwan remain vigilant about such a possibility.
At a forum titled "The dangerous Strait: the possibility of military conflict in the Taiwan Strait," scholars and military experts were invited to discuss the possibility of military conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, as well as between the U.S. and China, and the possible consequences.
Retired Air Force Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Chang Yen-ting (張延廷) said at the forum that the possibility of a high-level conflict or full-scale war between the two sides of the strait is low, but the possibility of low-level conflict is high, reported CNA. Chang said such a conflict could occur on the Dongsha Islands, Taiping Island, or Wuqiu Township because these "are easy to attack but difficult to defend."
Dongsha island. (Water Resources Bureau photo)
Chang pointed out that the number of incidents in which Chinese warplanes and warships have approached Taiwanese territory has increased significantly this year. He advised that Taiwan should closely monitor for a shift from a "quantitative change to a qualitative change," such as whether the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) goes from circling Taiwan from south to north to north to south.
Chen Ching-pu (陳勁甫), a social and policy sciences professor at Yuan Ze University, said that if China and Taiwan continue to test each other's red line and further demonize their opponents to win internal and external approval, once a conflict breaks out it could be a major turning point in cross-strait relations and lead to a "showdown," according to the report. Chen stressed that there is no winner in a war and that only by "cherishing peace, reducing mutual hostility, and providing hope and confidence can crisis and war be avoided."
Former Taiwan National Security Bureau chief, Tsai De-sheng (蔡得勝) also mentioned that the growing hostility between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in recent years is dangerous. Amid the crackdown in Hong Kong, the pandemic, the rise of nationalism in China, and the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) fear of surging calls for Taiwan independence, Beijing is more willing to "exercise its sovereignty," and the situation will become more complicated.
Wuqiu Lighthouse on Daqiu Island. (Wikimedia Commons photo)
Former Vice Defense Minister Chen Yeong-kang (陳永康) believes that in the face of a possible military conflict, Taiwan should consolidate its internal defense and social structure, "not by comparing the number of missiles but by ensuring that water and electricity continue to flow and banks do not collapse, so that the social structure can support its defense." As for tensions between the U.S. and China, Chen said that actions by both sides are still relatively moderate, which shows they do not want to engage in a conflict.
However, he warned that military preparations by the two countries are indeed heading in the direction of a possible "great power war." Therefore, he suggested that a conflict between the major powers cannot be ruled out.