War over Taiwan Inches Closer

April 8, 2021

The potential for catastrophic conflict with China is at a 70-year peak

The U.S. military is increasingly worried about the potential for a catastrophic conflict with China over the continued independence of Taiwan, which China considers to be a breakaway province.

During a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, U.S. Navy Admiral John Aquilino said that an armed takeover of Taiwan by China is likely to occur within the next six years. Yesterday, China responded to that fear by announcing that it would conduct eight days of war games later in April that will simulate a military invasion of Taiwan.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen stated that her nation “can’t yield any single inch of our land,” and Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, swore that the nation would fight “to the very last day.”

The escalation of tensions comes shortly after China passed a law allowing for its coast guard to fire upon foreign vessels sailing in what it deems to be its sovereign waters and the U.S. entered into a mutual aid agreement with Taiwan to improve maritime coordination.

Prior to that, China carried out the largest ever incursion into Taiwanese airspace by military aircraft, including four nuclear-capable bombers and 10 fighter jets. Such incursions have become a near-daily occurrence now, and may be a Chinese attempt to exhaust Taiwan’s defenses as a prelude to armed invasion.

Taiwan has suffered four fatal air crashes over the last 18 months, including one that killed its top military commander.

Taiwan began mass production of a long range missile last month and is currently prototyping three more models. It is unclear, however, what recourse the nation would have in the event of a war, as U.S. military support is far from guaranteed.

The U.S. recognized Taiwan as the legitimate seat of government of China until it switched diplomatic relations in 1979. Since then, Taiwan and the U.S. have shared in warm political and economic relations but have not maintained any formal alliance.

Such a diplomatic relationship places Washington in a difficult position, as refusing to render aid could weaken the standing of the U.S. globally, but military intervention could result in a devastating war between nuclear powers that the U.S. would likely lose.

The potential for armed conflict between the U.S. and China has reached the highest it has been since the Korean War during the first months of the Biden presidency, and will radically shape the nascent administration’s foreign policy. For now, it remains unclear how potential conflict in the Pacific will also shape the future of America as a whole.

 

Andrew Thornebrooke, Founder & Executive Editor of The Rearguard 

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