FILE - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen oversees the commission of the first squadron of the upgraded F-16V fighters in Chiayi Air Force Base, Taiwan in this handout picture provided by Taiwan Presidential Office on November 18, 2021. (Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via REUTERS)
Taiwan’s military experts have been studying how Ukraine has defended itself against the much larger Russian military. The island territory is planning in the event China decides to use force.
Like Ukraine, Taiwan’s own forces are much smaller than its neighbor’s. Taiwan’s government has not reported any unusual activity by the military in China, but it has raised its alert level. China views independent Taiwan as part of its country.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has backed the idea of “asymmetric warfare”, to make its smaller forces more mobile and harder to attack.
Ma Cheng-Kun is an expert on the Chinese military at Taiwan's National Defense University. He said, "Ukraine's military has been making full use of asymmetric warfare, very effectively, and so far, successfully holding off Russia's advance."
Ma said Taiwan’s armed forces have been actively developing light weapons that would make full use of asymmetric warfare. "From Ukraine's performance we can be even more confident in our own,” he said.
Taiwan has also been developing missiles that can reach far into China. Recently, the defense ministry said it plans to more than double its yearly missile production to close to 500 this year.
Taiwan’s government has repeatedly pointed to the Taiwan Strait as a natural barrier that separates it from China. Ukraine has a long land border with Russia.
Experts say Taiwan can also easily detect Chinese military movements and prepare ahead of an invasion. China would need to move hundreds of thousands of soldiers and ships which could easily be targeted by Taiwanese missiles.
Su Tzu-yun is a researcher at Taiwan’s top military research group, the Institute for National Defense and Security Research. He said to put soldiers in Taiwan, China would have to cross the strait, “so it’s a much higher risk” for China.
Question of American support
The war in Ukraine has renewed the continuing debate whether United States forces would come to aid Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The U.S. does not give a clear answer to this in either direction. But the Biden administration sent a team of former defense officials to Taiwan shortly after Ukraine was invaded.
Lo Chih-cheng is a senior lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. He observed that the action should settle the debate if the United States can be trusted.
"At this time, it sent a message to the other side of the strait, to Taiwan's people, that the United States is a trustworthy country," he said this week.
Taiwan is a major producer of semiconductors, the important electronic parts that run everything from advanced weapons to automobiles. That and the surrounding water, Taiwanese believe, make its defensive position different from Ukraine.
However, the Biden administration repeatedly ruling out sending troops to Ukraine has caused unease for some in Taiwan.
Chao Chien-min is the former head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. He said, "Do people in Taiwan really think now that the West and the United States will still come to save us?"
Words in This Story
alert – n. the state of being ready for something you have been warned about (such as an attack)
asymmetrical – adj. having two sides or halves that are not the same
advance – n. forward movement
strait – n. a narrow waterway between two pieces of land that connects two large bodies of water
detect – v. to discover or notice the presence of (something that is hidden or hard to see, hear, taste, or feel)