Tensions over Taiwan and the worst case scenario

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

Tensions between the US and China are raging on the back of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week. During that visit, Pelosi assured President Tsai Ing-wen that the US will uphold its commitment to preserve democracy in the island state and its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. China views the visit as an infringement on its sovereignty.

As far as Beijing is concerned, Taiwan is a renegade province that is still part of mainland China.

It views Pelosi’s visit as a betrayal of the One-China Policy. Pelosi’s visit follows a 2.17-hour phone conversation between President Biden and Xi Jinping, where the Chinese president threatened serious consequences should Pelosi’s visit take place. According to Xi, “those who play with fire will perish by it,” alluding to retaliation. China’s Foreign Affairs minister declared high-handedly, “those who offend China must be penalized.” The position of the US is clear.

Without infringing on its One-China Policy, “Washington opposes any unilateral action by China to change the status quo and undermine the peace and stability of the region,” declared President Biden. What is the status quo? The status quo is Taiwan enjoying independence from China and having the freedom to enact its own policies to ensure its continued prosperity and its democratic way of life.

The status quo is also not recognizing Taiwan’s sovereignty in deference to the One-China Policy. Pelosi’s visit was meant to convey five messages. First, to emphasize the importance of the Asia-Pacific in the US’s congressional agenda. Second, to exemplify Congress’ support of President Biden’s Asia Pacific initiative. Third, to tell China that it cannot dictate where American officials can or cannot travel to (America does not heed threats). Fourth, that Taiwan and the rest of the region can be assured of American support to combat Chinese aggression.

Fifth, that America will continue to preserve democracy around the world. Following Pelosi’s visit, China proceeded to conduct live-fire drills around Taiwanese borders. The drills were even recorded and posted on social media under the title “We are ready to fight anytime.” China’s response has heightened tensions in the region. Fred Fleitz, president of the Center of Security Policy in Washington, says that high-level visits like this should not have been announced but done as a quick in-and-out operation.

He does not believe China will retaliate by force, as the Chinese are more strategic than that. It will, however, intensify its military drills which, in turn, will provoke Taiwan and the US. The situation today is far different from the situation in 1995. It will be recalled that when America granted Taiwanese president Lee Teng Hui a visa to visit the US, China reacted by conducting military drills in Fujian province, just 130 kilometers away from Taiwan. The US showed up in the Taiwan Strait with aircraft carriers, destroyers and missile launchers.

America’s show of force caused China to back off. Fast forward to October 2021 and China is at it again. It was found conducting military drills in Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Aircraft that fly into a country’s ADIZ must identify themselves. Chinese fighter jets neither identified nor asked permission to fly over Taiwan’s ADIZ. China’s intention was to intimidate, warn and mock the Taiwanese government. Like clockwork, the US deployed military assets to the Taiwan Strait. This time, however, the Chinese did not budge. In fact, they even intensified their drills within Taiwan’s ADIZ. This exemplifies China’s growing aggression and military might. Is there a way to diffuse the tension and to bring peace? Yes. One way is for China and Taiwan sit down in dialogue. The second way is for China, the US and other stakeholders to agree on a middle ground and rule-based code of conduct in the region.

But vulnerable countries like the Philippines must prepare for the worst. Washington-based researcher and journalist, John Harris, describes the likely worst-case scenario. Once China decides that it had exhausted all diplomatic means, it must invade and re-claim Taiwan since it is mandated by law to do so. The attack will start by what will seem like regular military drills in Taiwan’s ADIZ. Chinese fighter jets will veer to the Taiwanese mainland to destroy its defense assets, including its military bases, radars, military command centers, power stations and anti-aircraft installations – basically all assets that Taiwan can use to defend itself.

China would have scrambled American satellites by this time so it could not immediately detect the stealth attack. Taiwan’s leaders will retreat to their underground command bunker where they order a retaliatory missile attack on the Chinese mainland. It will also deploy its army to its western seaboard to plant mines in anticipation of the arrival of Chinese troops. The Chinese sends thousands of troops to Taiwan, backed by a battalion of ships carrying arms and supplies. By this time, the US would have heard of the attack and deployed its aircraft carriers from its Guam and Japan bases. The American troops will be supported by other democratic forces, including those of Japan and Australia. Their objective is to bomb Chinese vessels headed to Taiwan.

This will put the US and her allies in direct combat with China. In a matter of days, the Chinese troops advance to the Taiwanese interior. Taiwan is ravaged. China proceeds to attack US bases in Okinawa and Guam. India and the Tibetan freedom fighters take advantage of the chaos and try to reclaim the Himalayan border and Tibet, respectively. This triggers World War 3.

The Philippines is at the center of the decisive theater. Hence, we must do all we can to protect our interests. That said, the Marcos administration would do well to accelerate the capacitation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It must also take the lead in ASEAN to propagate peace and dialogue among the decisive players.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan



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