Asymmetry, Taiwan’s Defense and Taiwan-U.S. Alliance

J. Michael Cole from Taipei Times and Jane’s Defence and James R. Holmes from U.S. Naval War College published two separate articles with the same message: contrary to conventional assumptions, Taiwan’s defense is not a lost case.

Cole notes that Taiwan has gradually abandoned doctrine of overwhelming defeat and embrace significantly more modest attitute. “[Taiwan] shifted toward a defense posture that prioritizes survival and deterrence, implementing concepts such as the “porcupine strategy” (seen by some as an argument against future US arms sales) and the “hard ROC” (Republic of China) posture. Military planners have realized that Taiwan does not have to completely defeat the PLA to be successful — in fact, as the 2011 National Defense Report indicates, the government now defines victory as preventing landing forces from establishing a foothold on Taiwan, an objective that is more realistic — and achievable — than defeating the PLA.” Article then proceeds with several suggestions for Taiwan’s defense, including shore-based anti-ship and cruise missiles, infrastructure and network redundancy and increased survivability of key infrastructure, such as airports.

James Holmes approaches Taiwan’s defense from the perspective of U.S. pivot to Asia. To convince U.S. policy makers that Taiwan is worth fighting for, Taiwan has to build-up capacities able to hold off Beijing long enough for U.S to intervene. “Taipei must stage some anti-access measures of its own, taking a strategically defensive stance that imposes prohibitive costs on PLA attackers. It means deploying sea and air forces to the island’s east to help clear a corridor for American relief forces. And in all likelihood it means spending more on the armed forces. With defense spending hovering just over 2 percent of GDP, Taipei barely meets the standard set by NATO — an alliance whose members face no threat. This bespeaks a society in denial about the dangers it confronts,” notes Holmes.

Taiwan does not have to buy more weapons as it cannot match China in quantitative terms. What Taiwan needs to do is to be smart and utilize the limited resources it has at its disposal.

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