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Former military chief says Taiwan should focus on smaller, mobile weapons

Lee Hsi-min says Taiwan needs to build up its arsenal of mobile precision weapons instead of jets and warships

Javelin anti-tank missile. (Reuters photo)

Javelin anti-tank missile. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan should concentrate on acquiring smaller, mobile weapons so it is better equipped to push back any possible initial Chinese invasion attempt, said former Taiwanese military chief Lee Hsi-min (李喜明).

Talking to Nikkei Asia, Lee said that if China were to attack, the bulk of American forces would take weeks to reach Taiwan. Beijing would likely try to seize Taiwan quickly before the U.S. or Japan can get involved, Lee said.

He also noted that currently, China does not possess the military capabilities to pull off a quick invasion, adding there was “not a great risk of an imminent attack on Taiwan,” according to Nikkei Asia.

Lee, who is currently a senior research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, said in the event of a Chinese attack he expected Washington to “immediately send forces” from its bases in Japan and South Korea. However, he added that deploying the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier from Japan, in addition to American forces in Guam and Hawaii would likely not be enough.

He said sending another carrier strike group and other forces from the U.S. “would take two to three weeks” to arrive, per Nikkei, which means that Taiwan would have to handle the initial Chinese attack on its own. He suggested that Taiwan build up an arsenal of mobile precision weapons, rather than focusing on larger pieces of hardware like warships, tanks, and combat jets, which could be taken out in a first strike.

Lee advocated for bolstering stocks of Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, drones, and small vessels, in addition to using guerilla tactics against Chinese forces. He also noted that Japan’s plans to acquire counterstrike capabilities against enemy missile bases in cooperation with Washington were “pragmatic” and could help prevent a possible conflict.

Meanwhile, Lee’s suggestion to concentrate on mobile weapons over big-ticket hardware has received pushback in Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, according to Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), director of the Division of Defense Strategy and Resources at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, Nikkei said. Su said mobile weaponry should make up around 40% of the country’s defensive capabilities.