Taiwan asks for Australia's support in possible war with China

(AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Over the weekend, I looked at the recent air incursions into Taiwan’s controlled airspace by Chinese warplanes and the chances that this situation could escalate into open warfare. While that still seems unlikely, at least in the short term, it’s clear that Taiwan is taking the matter seriously. They’ve been scrambling their own jets multiple times per day in response, heightening tensions above the Taiwan Strait. Yesterday, the country’s Foreign Minister tossed another log on the diplomatic fire by publicly calling on Australia to deepen its alliance with the island nation, sharing intelligence and other resources in preparation for a possible war. And if China wants a war, Taiwan is promising to give them one. (Australia News)

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister warns his nation is preparing for war with China and urges Australia to increase intelligence sharing and security cooperation as Beijing intensifies a campaign of military intimidation.

Dozens of aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have flown sorties into Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) since Friday, prompting the self-ruled island to scramble its own military jets.

Speaking to the ABC’s China Tonight program, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu declared that if the PLA were to launch an actual strike, his democratic state would be ready to repel it.

To clarify this a bit, the Taiwanese Foreign Minister isn’t calling on Australia to commit to providing direct military force to battle China, though it does seem to be subtly implied. Australia has the same sort of relationship with Taiwan that the United States has had for many decades. They don’t “officially” recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, but they do commit to helping Taiwan with the ability to defend itself in the event of a military attack by the Chinese. That sort of support can take many forms, ranging from intelligence sharing to funding for their defense capabilities.

For their part, Taiwan is talking as if they are ready to throw down. Joseph Wu is Taiwan’s Foreign Minister and he gave an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that is airing today. In it, he reportedly said, “If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan we will fight to the end, and that is our commitment.”

That’s a bold stance, but there don’t seem to be any analysts who believe that Taiwan could actually stave off a full military assault by China, at least not without help from other nations. And we’re talking about a lot of help. Taiwan has a respectable military, including an air force with approximately 600 fighter jets and bombers. They also have batteries of surface-to-air missiles, including Patriot Missiles purchased from the United States. They can field roughly 175,000 troops in their army and navy.

But China is, well… China. The PLA’s air force boasts more than five times as many jets, plus a few new aircraft carriers. Their offensive and defensive missile systems are vastly superior and that doesn’t even include their nukes. Even if the United States was willing to shed blood to save them (not at all a sure thing), it might not matter. One defense analyst interviewed for the linked report is quoted as saying, “The military center of gravity is China’s air defense system in the south. It has the ability to deny the United States control of the air — if the United States cannot control the air, it cannot win either on land or at sea.”

That reflects one of the points I touched on over the weekend. We only just got out of a twenty-year war in Afghanistan, albeit in a disastrously chaotic withdrawal. Does anyone seriously believe we’re going to launch a war against China on their own doorstep? At this point, the best we can probably do is just continue to hope that China isn’t ready to go all-in on retaking Taiwan and continue to supply them with the means to defend themselves as best they can. Diplomatic pressure on China is always an option, but they haven’t been paying much attention to that lately, unfortunately.