Will Japan defend Taiwan?

Will Japan defend Taiwan?

So far, Japan has kept a low profile in the conflict between China and Taiwan. Tokyo is now taking its side with Taiwan more and more openly – militarily if necessary. A deployment abroad would be highly controversial among the population. Traditionally, the Japanese government has officially kept a low profile in the conflict between China and Taiwan. Japan maintains important economic relations with both Chinese states. Any open positioning in favor of democratic Taiwan would exacerbate tensions in the region. This year, however, the barriers will fall in Tokyo. For the first time, the government warned of growing military tensions around Taiwan in the Defense White Paper on Tuesday. More than ever before, it is necessary to carefully monitor the situation with a sense of the crisis, it says there. The stabilization of the situation around Taiwan is important for the security of Japan and the stability of the international community. The Ministry of Defense said that the analysis did not assume a military conflict between China and Taiwan. Japan’s position has long been that China and Taiwan should resolve their differences through dialogue. But even before the analysis, the deputy head of government and finance minister Taro Aso had drawn a different line. If there is a major incident involving Taiwan, it is safe to assume that the situation threatens the very existence of Japan, Aso said last week. „In such a case, Japan and the United States must defend Taiwan together,“ he was quoted as saying.

Tokyo looks to Beijing with concern. A combat deployment of Japanese troops abroad would be a novelty under the pacifist post-war constitution. With a reinterpretation of the constitution a few years ago, the government opened up the possibility of rushing to the aid of friendly countries in the course of collective defense abroad in order to protect Japan itself. This has not happened so far. That would also be highly controversial among the population. The eighty-year-old Aso is now the highest-ranking Japanese politician to date, who shows a clear scenario for such a deployment of self-defense troops to defend another country.

The fact that he is bringing this option into play with a view to Taiwan, thereby irritating China, illustrates the concern with which the Tokyo government is viewing developments. In the white paper, the Ministry of Defense describes China’s increasing military activity around Taiwan. Citing the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, it is said that 380 Chinese fighter planes entered Taiwan’s Southwestern airspace last year. The report also shows the military superiority of China over Taiwan, measured in terms of equipment. Beijing’s ability to land on the island and occupy it is currently limited. But the military balance has shifted in favor of China.

The Defense Ministry in Tokyo evasively commented on a report in the Financial Times that Japanese and American troops are already preparing to defend Taiwan together. “The self-defense forces prepare for a variety of situations with exercises. We do not disclose which ones. ” .The joint exercises with the United States recently included a premiere on the island of Amami Oshima North of Okinawa.

On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, American and Japanese troops procured surface-to-air defense missile systems there and built them on a test basis. The exercise was not directed against a specific country, says the responsible staff officer of the self-defense forces. But Amami is roughly in the middle of the chain of islands between Japan and Taiwan, which makes it difficult for China to enter the Pacific from the East China Sea. Deputy Prime Minister Aso is known for verbal slip-ups, but also for saying what others in Tokyo don’t dare to do. His statement fits in with a number of other comments. In April, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden first mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement, emphasizing the importance of cross-strait peace and stability for the region.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, underlined that Taiwan’s peace and stability are directly linked to Japan. After a visit to Yonaguni, the closest Japanese island to Taiwan, 190 kilometers East of Taipei, Kishi was quoted in the spring as saying that Japan must be prepared if Taiwan turns „red“. „We are not friends of Taiwan, we are brothers,“ said the second man in the Department of Defense, Minister of State Yasuhide Nakayama, in an online lecture at the American Hudson Institute at the end of June. Nakayama also broke the taboo established by Beijing to designate Taiwan as a country. It is time to defend Taiwan as a democratic country, he said.

Such tones stand out from the symbolic politics with which Japan showed its sympathy for Taiwan under Suga’s predecessor Abe. In 2017, for example, Japan renamed the „Association for Exchange“ to Taipei and added the name Taiwan to China’s protest. The association serves as the unofficial Japanese embassy in Taiwan. The now clearer tone from Tokyo shows the government not only in the convoy of the United States. It also reflects Japanese concerns that Beijing has increased its presence not only around Taiwan but also off the Senkaku Islands, which China claims under the name Diaoyu. But the government in Tokyo still dominates symbolic politics. In the ongoing vaccination dispute between Taipei and Beijing, the Japanese government Taiwan has already donated 3.4 million vaccine doses against the corona virus.

Of course, the CPC immediately responded to the shift in the Japanese Taiwan and foreign policy with angry comments in its mouthpiece Global Times:

“Japan would ‘lose badly’ if it defends Taiwan secessionists


Xu Keyue

Published: Jul 13, 2021 10:45 PM

Japan is continuing to provoke China on the Taiwan question as its annual defense white paper released on Tuesday mentioned Taiwan stability for the first time. 

Chinese observers warned that if Tokyo defends Taiwan secessionists or tries to interrupts China’s national reunification, it would „lose badly and the consequences would be unbearable.“

Japan’s latest defense paper, whose cover features a warrior on horseback, was criticized by some Japanese netizens. They worried that the contents are „very warlike“ and „set back the wheel of history“ because the white paper intends to authorize the Japanese government with more rights and excuses to use force, which are against the Article 9 of Japan’s constitution.

The white paper said that stability in the Taiwan Straits is „more important than ever,“ and is threatened by „increasing military pressure“ from the Chinese mainland, The Kyodo News reported.

„Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,“ the white paper said.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Japan is trying to use the Taiwan question to normalize its military deregulation and break its pacifist constitution.

Song said that Japan has taken the first step on arms sales to the island of Taiwan by providing the authority on the island support in manufacturing submarines. In the future, it’s possible for Japan to provide more arms to the island, which will break China’s bottom line, Song said.

Since the US-Japan „2+2“ talks held on March 16, Tokyo had made a series of provocations against Beijing over the Taiwan question and its provocations are getting increasingly clear, Da Zhigang, director and research fellow of Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and chief expert at Northeast Asian Strategic Studies Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

However, when Japan decides to interfere in the Taiwan question militarily or serves as a military base for the US to interrupt China’s national reunification process, it will inevitably be treated as a threat to China, and will be a target of China’s military strikes, said experts.

Japan relies heavily on the Chinese market, and „China won’t allow Japan to earn huge amounts of money from its market and threaten its national security and sovereignty at the same time.“ Song warned that if Japan still tries to follow the US in containing China and even dares to defend Taiwan secessionist forces, it will lose badly.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday condemned the Japanese government for repeatedly provoking China, grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs, unjustifiably criticizing China’s normal national defense buildup and military activities, making irresponsible remarks on China’s legitimate maritime activities, and hyping the so-called China threat. „This is extremely wrong and irresponsible,“ said Zhao.

Zhao stressed that Taiwan is China’s inalienable territory and the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affairs. China will never allow any country to interfere in the Taiwan question in any way, Zhao noted, saying „China must and will reunify,“ which is in the best interest of regional peace and stability.

A Beijing-based military analyst who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday that as the Chinese mainland’s military has increased in recent years, Japan’s military capability has fallen far behind that of the Chinese mainland. 

Even the US could not defeat China militarily in the West Pacific region now, so „what makes Japan believe it’s able to challenge China with force?“ he asked. 

He warned that „Japan should understand that the US could run away if it loses, but Japan is too close to China, and there is nowhere it could run.“

Japan’s new defense paper also gives harsher criticism to China’s „unilateral attempts to change the status quo by coercion“ near the Diaoyu Islands.

The paper accused activities of Chinese vessels last year near the islands of „a violation of international law.“ 

In response, Zhao said the Diaoyu Islands and the affiliated islets are an inalienable part of Chinese territory and China’s patrols in waters off the Diaoyu Islands are legitimate and lawful exercises of its inherent rights.”


A more furious commentator and military experts thinks that Japan by this measures could become its own gravedigger:

“Japan will dig its own grave if it crosses red line of Taiwan question

By Song Zhongping Published: Jul 07, 2021 12:38 PM

„If China invades Taiwan, Tokyo may interpret the move as a ‚threat to Japan’s survival‘ and deploy the Self-Defense Forces to exercise collective self-defense,“ Nikkei Asia quoted Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso as reporting on Tuesday. 

Japan has gone too far and stretched its hands too long. Japan has no right to dictate issues related to China’s internal affairs. Making inflammatory comments on the Taiwan question shows that Japan is following US‘ policy of using the island as an important bridgehead to contain China. Such remarks from a Japanese politician made shortly before the memorial day of July 7 Incident of 1937, when Japan invaded China, proves that Japan’s colonial ideology, especially toward the island of Taiwan, has not disappeared for a single day. Yet Japan needs to remember that its survival depends on whether Japan understands its situation correctly – not on how China is prepared to resolve the Taiwan question. 

Such a view toward the Taiwan question as a core interest of Japan is not uncommon. For the hawks in Japan, especially the extreme right wings, they are actually focused on two issues, one is the Diaoyu Islands, and the other is the island of Taiwan. If Taiwan secedes from China, China’s overall comprehensive strength will be greatly weakened. Japan does not want to see a strong China nearby. So it is more in Japan’s practical interest, especially of certain politicians, to separate the island from China.

But it needs to be clarified that, first of all, Japan does not dare to confront China alone. If Japan involves itself in the Taiwan question militarily, it will be Japan digging its own grave. Japan’s military capability is completely restrained by the US and does not have an independent combat capability. It is easy for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to paralyze the attack capability of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Japan itself is powerless against the Chinese military.

However, if Japan cooperates with the US to carry out military actions against China, especially over the island of Taiwan or Diaoyu Islands, Beijing will view the move as engaging in a military conflict with China. In this sense, Japan will become the target of China’s military strike. This will endanger Japan’s survival.

Politicians such as Aso are unlikely to become the dominant force in Japan’s foreign policy. Some Japanese politicians have been instigating Taiwan secessionists to pursue „Taiwan independence.“ What China needs to do, and can do, is to increase efforts to exercise authority over the Diaoyu Islands issue.

Japan believes that the US will definitely defend the island of Taiwan militarily. So Japanese politicians are talking a lot of nonsense here. They want to send a signal to Washington that if the US sends troops to the island, Japan will do the same, as the latter wishes to fish in troubled waters. But if Japan is all by itself, it would tend likely take a step back, or make compromises, when confronting China today. 

Japan is not a country with full sovereignty, militarily, diplomatically or politically. The reason why Japan keeps hyping up the so-called external threats is obvious: it needs to constantly exaggerate the situation so it can turn these into public opinion to support revising its pacifist constitution.

As long as Japan crosses China’s red line, the PLA will have no other choice but to strike back.

The author is a military expert and TV commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


However, Japan could not fight a war over Taiwan alone without the USA and its nuclear umbrella. How threatening does the USA perceive a Taiwan war scenario? There are mixed opinions even in the top layers of the US military. The US Chief of Staff Mark Milley rejects warnings of an imminent threat of war between China and Taiwan. In doing so, he contradicts high-ranking US generals. Milley, assumes that China currently has neither the military capabilities nor the intention to conquer Taiwan. „I think China is still a long way from developing the real capabilities for a military operation to capture the entire island of Taiwan,“ the senior American soldier told a Senate committee. He also sees no motivation on the part of China to force unification with Taiwan militarily. „There’s no need to do it militarily, and they know that.“

Milley estimated the likelihood of an invasion „in the immediate, near future as low“. He seemed to contradict warnings of high-ranking American military about a danger of war. For example, the now retired commander of the US Pacific Command, Philip Davidson, said in March that „in the next six years“ China could try to take Taiwan. His successor John Aquilino had said that such an attack was „closer than most think.“ There have long been calls that the Americans urgently need to increase their deterrent capabilities in the region.The reasons for the warnings were, among other things, increased threatening gestures by the Chinese military against Taiwan. Chinese war planes now fly maneuvers almost daily in the immediate vicinity of the island. Statements by Xi Jinping that the question of unification “should not be passed on from generation to generation” and the clarification that the island are an integral part of his vision of a “rewakening of the Chinese nation” were also interpreted as a threat.

 The goal of „reunification“ with Taiwan has been a political consensus in China since 1949. At that time, the communists‘ opponents of the civil war, the republican troops, had withdrawn to the island of Taiwan, which was then part of China. Beijing has long reserved the right to force unification in the event that Taiwan declares itself independent or a peaceful union appears impossible, but a war over Taiwan would involve incalculable risks. As part of its policy of “strategic ambiguity”, the United States is keeping open a possible entry into war in defense of Taiwan. In addition, the geography of the island requires an extremely complex landing operation.

Hopefully Milley is right. The logic would speak for it, also that time is on the side for China which might grow so strong in 1 or 2 decades while the USA and Taiwan will capitualte and not be interested in a conflict or a war, but give up. And if Trump or a similar Trumpist might be reelected, the tensions with China could escalate , especially if such a politican questions or gambles with the One China policy again or on the other extreme will back down and give China Taiwan and Russia Crimea. It remains see whether the CCP will wait that long or not yet fall victim to hubris because of its own nationalism. The assessments of US generals were also very sometimes wrong. Just think of US General Stillwell in the Chinese civil war, who underestimated the CCP , thought it was a democratic land reform movement, saw the corrupt KMT military as anegative factor and “lost China“. Also let’s not forget, there are also misjudgments in history think of the Schliefenplan and the German Wehrmacht, which believed that the Soviet Union could be defeated by blitzkrieg in 3 months or the French military and its Maginot line or Westmoreland, who said 1968 the boys would be back from Vietnam at Christmas or Bush jr.´s “Mission accomplished” after the Iraq war.There are many historic examples of misperception, misjudgement and hubris. And some Chinese strategist also think you could win that war against Taiwan by a  simple short-range missile swarm terror attack or other strategists who also want to combine it with cyber and space war and not just traditional amphibious and maritime attacks. There are some elements in China who believe in some sort of a Chinese Schliefenplan and a quick victory by blitzkrieg and a little bit “fortune” and “surprise” like Prussian Old Fritz. The USA tries to reassure China that there would be no short war and victory against Taiwan and the USA (TX Hammes: Offshore Control or the RAND study “War with China”), but China may hope that in the future the USA might become preoccupied by another crisis which absorbs its power and use the hoped-for window of opportunity. And what happens if China doesn´t conquer the whole Taiwan, but only island groups and small stakes of it or parts of it to test the USA?

Furthermore, the question arises to what extent a new Japanese White paper also takes into account the questions that Michael O Hannon raises in his recently published book “The Senkaku Paradox” – that is, how the USA will react to a limited hybrid warfare of Russia, be it in the Baltic Gaps or on the part of China around Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea- whether the USA respond massively and risk a full-fleged all-out war, even a nuclear escalation or contain the local aggression of small stakes and respond with massive economic warfare, as he outlines his new strategy „integrated deterrence“ in his book.

Cover: The Senkaku Paradox

America needs better options for resolving potential crises

In recent years, the Pentagon has elevated its concerns about Russia and China as potential military threats to the United States and its allies. But what issues could provoke actual conflict between the United States and either country? And how could such a conflict be contained before it took the world to the brink of thermonuclear catastrophe, as was feared during the cold war?

Defense expert Michael O’Hanlon wrestles with these questions in this insightful book, setting them within the broader context of hegemonic change and today’s version of great-power competition.

The book examines how a local crisis could escalate into a broader and much more dangerous threat to peace. What if, for example, Russia’s “little green men” seized control of a community, like Narva or an even smaller town in Estonia, now a NATO ally? Or, what if China seized one of the uninhabited Senkaku islands now claimed and administered by Japan, or imposed a partial blockade of Taiwan?

Such threats are not necessarily imminent, but they are far from inconceivable. Washington could be forced to choose, in these and similar cases, between risking major war to reverse the aggression, and appeasing China or Russia in ways that could jeopardize the broader global order.

O’Hanlon argues that the United States needs a better range of options for dealing with such risks to peace. He advocates “integrated deterrence,” which combines military elements with economic warfare. The military components would feature strengthened forward defenses as well as, possibly, limited military options against Russian or Chinese assets in other theaters. Economic warfare would include offensive elements, notably sanctions, as well as measures to ensure the resilience of the United States and allies against possible enemy reprisal.

The goal is to deter war through a credible set of responses that are more commensurate than existing policy with the stakes involved in such scenarios.“

Till now the USA relies more on TX Hammes Offshore Controll strategy and the strategic concept Airsea Battle. The US and Chinese goverment both claim that no side wanted a Sinoamerican war and that this event was unlikely.However, both sides and their strategists sometimes point out that misperceptions and miscalculations could trigger such a war. Since Obama officially shifted to the Asian pivot and TRump even considered to cancel the One China policy, China at the same time claims territories in the South and East Chinese Sea and expands its spheres of influence in the Pacific which steadily make crisis, conflicts and maybe even a war more likely.That this unlikely war seems to be perceived as not so unlikely proves the fact that a real flood of US studies about Sinoamerican war secenarios are published at the moment. Starting with RAND´s „War with China“ and the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment (CSBA)´s study “Why Airseabattle?” which promotes an operative concept to bomb China mainland as long as the Chinese give in, TX Hammes issued his Offshore Controll (OC) strategy which propagates a maritime blockade of China comparable to the US blockade of Imperial Japan in the Second World War. Both concepts and strategies claim that such a Sinoamerican war wouldn´t escalate to a nuclear war and that the USA could win such a war.

In an interview TX Hammes explained Global Review the strategy of Offshore Controll:

Global Review : Could you give the German audience a description what OC is? And what are the differences to ASB/JOAC?

TX Hammes: Any U.S. military strategy for Asia must achieve six objectives: (1) insure access for U.S. forces and allied commercial interests to the global commons; (2) assure Asian nations that the United States is both willing to and capable of remaining engaged in Asia; (3) deter China from military action to resolve disputes while encouraging its continued economic growth; (4) in the event that deterrence fails, achieve US objectives with minimal risk of nuclear escalation; (5) discourage friends and allies from taking aggressive steps that further destabilize the region; and (6) be visible and credible today, not years in the future.

“Offshore Control is an effective and affordable approach. Offshore Control establishes a set of concentric rings that denies China the use of the sea inside the first island chain, defends the sea and air space of the first island chain and US allies therein, and dominates the air and maritime space outside the island chain.  Offshore Control does not strike into China but takes advantage of geography to block China’s exports and thus severely weaken its economy. No operations will penetrate Chinese airspace.  Prohibiting penetration is intended to reduce the possibility of nuclear escalation and make conflict termination easier.

Denial as an element of the campaign plays to U.S. strengths by employing primarily attack submarines, drones, mines, and a limited number of air assets inside the first island chain.  This area will be declared a maritime exclusion zone with the warning that enemy ships in the zone will be sunk or boarded.  If these ships evade the blockade and trade with China, they will be subject to seizure and prize court when they pass through the 1st Island Chain on their return voyage. While the United States cannot stop all sea traffic in this zone, it can prevent the passage of large cargo ships and large tankers, severely disrupting China’s economy relatively quickly.

The defensive component of Offshore Control will bring the full range of U.S. assets to defend allied soil and encourage allies to contribute to that defense.  It takes advantage of geography to force China to fight at longer ranges while allowing U.S. and allied forces to fight as part of an integrated air-sea defense over their own territories. It maximizes US strengths in blue water sea control, theater air defense, undersea warfare, and aerospace while avoiding China’s inherent advantages on and near the mainland.  In short, it will flip the advantages of anti-access/area denial to the United States and its allies.  Numerous small islands from Japan to Taiwan and on to Luzon provide dispersed land basing options for air and sea defense of the apparent gaps in the first island chain. Since Offshore Control will rely heavily on land-based air defense and short-range sea defense to include mine and counter-mine capability, we can encourage potential partners to invest in these capabilities and exercise together regularly in peacetime.   In keeping with the concept that the strategy must be feasible in peacetime, the United States will not request any nations to allow the use of their bases to attack China.  The strategy will only ask nations to allow the presence of U.S. defensive systems to defend that nation’s air, sea, and land space. The U.S. commitment will include assisting with convoy operations to maintain the flow of essential imports and exports in the face of Chinese interdiction attempts.  In exercises, the United States could demonstrate all the necessary capabilities to defend allies – and do so in conjunction with the host nation forces.

The dominate phase of the campaign would be fought outside the range of most Chinese assets and would use a combination of air, naval, ground, and rented commercial platforms to intercept and divert the super tankers and large container ships essential to China’s economy.  For example, eighty percent of China’s imported oil transits the Straits of Malacca.  If Malacca, Lombok, Sunda and the routes north and south of Australia are controlled, these shipments can be cut off.  Interdicting China’s energy imports will weaken its economy, but exports matter even more.   These rely on large container ships for competitive cost advantage.  The roughly 1000 ships of this size are the easiest to track and divert. China could attempt to reroute this shipping, but the only possibilities must still pass through the 1st Island Chain.  U.S. assets can control all these routes.  Alternate overland routes simply cannot move the 9.74 billion tons of goods China exported by sea in 2012 — the equivalent of roughly 1000 trains per day.   While such a concentric blockade campaign will require a layered effort from the straits to China’s coast, it will mostly be fought at a great distance from China—effectively out of range of most of China’s military power.

Further contributing to Offshore Control’s credibility is the fact the United States can execute the campaign with the military forces and equipment it has today.  Unlike other approaches, it does not rely on highly classified, developmental defense programs for success.  Rather, the United States can exercise the necessary capabilities with its allies now, not a generation on.

This brings us to the ends the strategy seeks. Offshore Control assumes that attacking China’s nuclear weapons or the regime itself is too dangerous to contemplate.  We do not understand the Communist Party’s decision process for the employment of nuclear weapons, but we do know the party will risk all to remain in control.  Thus, rather than seeking a decisive victory against the Chinese, Offshore Control seeks to use economic pressure to bring about a stalemate and cessation of conflict with a return to a modified version of the status quo.  Theoretical strategists may question the lack of a path to decisive victory, but decisive victory falls outside the logic of conflict with a great nuclear power. There, one seeks to avoid the clash or, failing that, to achieve acceptable outcomes short of a nuclear exchange that enable all sides to back away.  In this sense, Offshore Control offers a more realistic and pragmatic roadmap to resolution and peace.

Global Review: Critics of OC say that it would be a long-term effort which would overstretch the financial and military resources of the USA, that the naval blockade could be undermined by train, roads and air lifts. Some even say that in military history a naval blockade never could bring down an enemy alone. And last, but not least: What happens, if China could make a breakthrough trough the naval blockade? Was there a plan B?

TX Hammes: By shifting the fight from close proximity to China out to the first island chain, OC significantly reduced the demands on US armed forces.  Only a small percentage of China’s forces can operate at that range from the mainland, so we only have to fight that percentage.  The closer we fight to China the more of their force we have to fight.

To move as many containers per day over rail as are moved through China’s port would require 1000 trains of 150 cars.  That is 1000 trains per DAY.  And of course, to return the cars would require 1000 trains returning each day.  Compounding the problem is the fact the traffic has to move over the Russian or Kazakhstan railway systems – neither known for efficiency.  And because of RR gauge changes, each container would have to be taken off at China’s border, shifted to Russian gauge and then shifted again if they attempt to take it by train into Europe.  Currently a limited amount of rail traffic does go from China to Europe – the last cost estimates I saw showed it was $10000 per container by rail but only $5000 by sea.  And of course, those rail lines go through some of the hottest and coldest climates on the earth.  Many goods would be damaged by the temperature extremes.

The objective is NOT to bring down the enemy.  We do not want the CCP to go away.  If they do, who rules China?  The objective is convince the Chinese they cannot win a war with the US.  The strategy attacks two of China’s great strategic fears – the Malacca dilemma and the fear of a long war.

It attacks a great weakness – China is export driven and succeeds because of the cost advantage of its products.  However, that cost advantage goes away if it can’t freely use the sea, particularly the post-Panamax container ships.Plan B is to interdict that shipping at even greater ranges from China.  Trade to Europe must pass through the Suez or go around the Cape.  Trade with the Middle East must pass through the Straits of Hormuz or Bab al-Mandab.  Trade with the western hemisphere can be control near the coasts.

Global Review: Why is ASB/JOAC not a strategy, but a concept and what is OC? What is missing to be a strategy? Some say that ASB/JOAC wouldn´t have a defined goal in opposite to OC—is that true?

TX Hammes: The authors state in their title that ASB is an operational concept.  It explains how the US can fight through A2/AD to strike into China. It never explains why we need to do so or how doing so gets China to quit fighting. The authors never claimed it was a strategy.  It is not a strategy because it never expresses a theory of victory (actually just a theory of conflict termination in a war with China or any thermo-nuclear power.)  It seems to assume that if we bomb China enough, it will quit.

As noted OC is a strategy, that attacks China’s strategic vulnerability.  Its reliance on cost advantage to sustain its trade.

Global Review: Where do you see the weak points of ASB/JOAC?

TX Hammes: It is unaffordable.  It never explains how it will win.  And it assumes a US president will authorize strikes on China – to include strikes that could easily be interpreted by the Chinese as an effort to destroy China’s nuclear deterrence.  This is despite the fact multi-Presidents would not authorize strikes into China during the Korean or the Vietnam wars.

Global Review: China started its One Belt-One Road Initiative (New Silkroad/ String of Pearls-Maritime Silkroad). Its a two track approach by land and by sea. OBOR will create massive infrastructure building, new roads, railways, airports, ports. Has OC to adopt to this new transportation networks? What will the proportions between transportation by land, sea and air be after the OBOR initiative is finished? Will China be more a continental land power or more a sea power—what are the effects on OC planning? Have you to complement the naval blockade by a continental blockade?

TX Hammes: As noted above, there is just too large a volume of material to move via rail or road. Some high value items can be shipped but not enough to replace the lost sea routes.  Keep in mind that although China has promised great investment.  It has not actually invested much.  Remember the much touted $4B China was going to invest in the Afghan copper mine.  That deal was made almost a decade ago and as near as I can find out only $10 to 20 M has been actually spent.Even if China invests heavily the return on investment is likely to be low.  When you examine the countries along One Belt (Pakistan, Central Asia), they are poor countries with little potential for growth. One Road is simply an expansion of already existing sea trade.  New ports will make it somewhat more efficient but remain vulnerable to blockade.”

From the CSBA report on ASBC: the section entitled “Executing a Missile Suppression Campaign.”

From the CSBA report on the ASBC: the section entitled “Blind PLA ISR Systems.” Referenced from: http://thomaspmbarnett.com/globlogization/2012/8/10/nice-critique-of-the-sheer-and-reckless-overkill-that-is-asb.html#comments#ixzz45inFNlIn

Another study about future wars is The Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessment (CSBA)`s “Rethinking Armaggeddon”which is about the “Second Nuclear Age”and in its China section it thinks about the question how the mutual deterrence could be destabilized if the CPC increases its number of ICBMs which may be the case now with the built-up of new ICBM silos in China.

However, one has also to keep in mind, that the danger for Taiwan might not only come militarily from the outside, but also from within. The KMT at the moment is split in different factions. One that wants to get back to the 1992 consensus and the status quo, another which thinks that since the abolishment of the 1 country, 2 systems rule in Hongkong the traditional KMT status quo concept is outdated and that you have to pronounce more autonomy of Taiwan, even not independence as parts of the DDP would like it,  while another faction in business and the KMT thinks that  a war was not worth it and Taiwan should peacefully come back home to the Empire of the Middle Kingdom. Heim ins Reich as the Germans or Austrians once used to say. This “Back home-to-the-Empire” faction, which can also be found in parts of the KMT. and the national Chinese in Taiwan, is not even on the radar of the Western media, nor is it what Beijing’s 5th column in Taiwan could paralyze and do  with the United Front of the Communist Party of China. And maybe it might be only a emergency cry for Mainland China´s help which could legitimize an invasion to rescue and liberate the compatriots.

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