D-Day for Taiwan as PLA plots to invade the island

Beijing now has the ability to launch an invasion force of more than 25,000 troops, report reveals

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has systematically planned, trained and built the forces necessary for an all-out invasion of Taiwan.

Bolstered by the “One China” cornerstone policy that the island democracy is an inalienable part of the mainland, Beijing has created a formidable force – allowing it to launch naval and air blockades, as well as cyber and missile attacks.

Of course, Taiwan sees this as bullying.

The island’s government claims it is an independent country and is officially known as the “Republic of China.” Yet any nation that wants diplomatic relations with mainland China must break official ties with Taipei.

This has resulted in Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation from the international community.

However, according to the latest annual report by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), the day has arrived, in which China now has the ability to launch an invasion force of more than 25,000 troops, Taiwan News reported.

Dangerous uncertainty’

In other words, despite the US and its allies, the study warns that the PLA “will soon have, the initial capability” required to invade Taiwan.

In Chapter 4 of the 539-page report titled, A Dangerous Period for Cross-strait Deterrence: Chinese Military Capabilities and Decision-making For a War over Taiwan, the USCC wrote that cross-strait deterrence has entered a period of “dangerous uncertainty” due to advancements in the capabilities of the PLA.

Furthermore, it pointed out the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken an increasingly coercive approach toward Taiwan with “almost daily pressure on the cross-strait status quo,” heightening the possibility of a military confrontation with the West.

The document added the PLA will continue to strengthen its capability in the future. The study also suggested that China can now call upon civilian ships to help the PLA deliver more troops to Taiwan once a beachhead has been established. 

The authors of the report said they were increasingly concerned whether conventional US forces would be sufficient to deter China from launching an attack on Taiwan.

Democratic cause

They wrote that deterrence could crumble if Chinese leaders believe the US is not militarily capable, or politically willing to step in. 

Some analysts believe the US has abandoned the high ground, following its debacle in Afghanistan, signaling to China and Russia that it would not be willing to go to war for a democratic cause.

Still, I recently asked a former Pentagon associate, what would the US really do, if Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine. This has become a distinct possibility now that there are more troops stationed near the Ukraine border than all the forces in the United Kingdom combined.

He laughed, then answered: “Of course we’ll do something. We’ll put one finger in our mouth and another in our ass, and every half hour we’ll switch.”

US ambiguity could be taken as meaning that Washington would not provide a forceful response if China takes aggressive action.

However, the report said cross-strait deterrence works at the moment because Beijing is not certain whether an invasion of Taiwan would succeed. The risks and consequences of such an attack still weigh heavily on the Communist Party leadership.

The PLA air force has increased exercises around Taiwan. Photo: File

If a PLA invasion of Taiwan fails, or it was unable to prevent US intervention, it could “unleash a chain of events that undermine the CCP’s popular legitimacy and generate calls for political change” in China.

The paper recommends that Congress take “urgent measures” to bolster the credibility of US military deterrence in the short term and honor its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. 

The report recommended actions such as the deployment of “large numbers of” anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) in the Indo-Pacific.

In addition, although the study commends Taiwan for developing its asymmetric warfare capabilities and its success in developing indigenous missiles, it points out that the island faces serious challenges after many years of underinvestment in defense.

There are other concerns. In simulated combat in which China attempts to invade Taiwan, the results are sobering and the US often loses, said David Ochmanek, a former senior Defense Department official who helps run war games for the Pentagon at the RAND Corporation think tank.

According to NBC News, in tabletop exercises with America as the “blue team” facing off against a “red team” resembling China, Taiwan’s air force is wiped out within minutes. Also, US airbases across the Pacific come under attack, and American warships and aircraft are held at bay by the long reach of China’s vast missile arsenal, he said.

War games

“Even when the blue teams in our simulations and war games intervened in a determined way, they don’t always succeed in defeating the invasion,” Ochmanek said.

Former Indo-Pacific commander and retired four-star admiral in the US Navy Admiral Phil Davidson had earlier warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s potential transition in 2027 might prove to be a “potential threat” to Taiwan. 

Admiral Davidson “sent shockwaves globally” when he predicted a specific timeline for a planned invasion of Taiwan during his testimony to Congress in March.

At the time, he headed the US Indo-Pacific Command and said China could attempt to take control of Taiwan by the end of the decade, or within the “next six years.” He also stressed that the US needed to “rethink” Taiwan’s strategic ambiguity in the Western Pacific.

Meanwhile, Taipei has deployed the most advanced version of the F-16 fighter jet in its air force, as it steps up its defense capabilities.

Fighter jets

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen commissioned into service 64 upgraded F-16V fighter jets at a base in Chiayi on Thursday. The aircraft represent part of Taiwan’s total 141 F-16 A/B jets, an older model from the 1990s that will be completely retrofitted by the end of 2023.

In the past year, Beijing has stepped up its threat by sending fighter jets in combat formations into Taiwan’s buffer zone southwest of the island on a regular basis, along with longer-range missions into the Western Pacific.

It has increased its rhetoric as well, with President Xi telling US President Joe Biden during a virtual summit this week that challenges to China’s claim over the island amounted to “playing with fire.”

“Such moves are extremely dangerous. Whoever plays with fire will get burnt,” Xi cautioned Biden while stating that Washington should demonstrate political leadership and “steer America’s China policy back on the track of reason and pragmatism.”

While Xi seemed adversarial, Biden, spoke of the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and “communicated the continued determination” of the US to uphold its commitments in the region.

Sources: Taiwan News, BBC News, RepublicWorld.com, Associated Press, Tribune India, NBC News