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What Pentagon officials think about likely Chinese blockade of Taiwan



In a new high, China’s military dispatched a total of 103 warplanes toward Taiwan within a 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday.
Although Chinese military aircraft routinely approach the self-governed island on an almost daily basis, they generally do so in smaller numbers.
Tensions between the two sides have escalated, particularly in conjunction with the United States, which serves as Taiwan’s primary arms supplier and opposes any attempts to alter Taiwan’s status through force.
These recent actions by China may also be aimed at influencing Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election in January. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which leans towards formal independence for Taiwan, is viewed unfavorably by Chinese leadership. China tends to support opposition candidates who advocate closer cooperation with the mainland.
Meanwhile, senior Pentagon officials informed Congress on Tuesday that a Chinese blockade of Taiwan would likely prove unsuccessful, and a direct military invasion of the self-governed island would pose significant challenges for Beijing.
US CIA Director William Burns has indicated that Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed the country’s armed forces to be prepared for a possible invasion by 2027. However, it remains uncertain whether Xi would order a military takeover of Taiwan, whether through a blockade or an invasion.
Ely Ratner, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said that a blockade would allow Taiwan’s allies to mobilize resources in support of the island. The economic repercussions of a blockade would be so severe that it would galvanize international opposition against Beijing.
Ratner explained, “It would likely not succeed, and it would entail a significant risk of escalation for the PRC, prompting consideration of whether it was willing to ultimately attack commercial maritime vessels.”
Army Major General Joseph McGee, Vice Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, also expressed doubts about the feasibility of a blockade, citing the challenges involved. He noted that while it’s an option, it may not be a highly probable one, especially when considering the practicalities.
McGee emphasized that a frontal amphibious invasion of Taiwan would be extremely difficult for China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), to execute. Such an operation could not be carried out as a surprise attack.
He explained, “They would need to amass tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of troops on the eastern coast, which would be a clear signal.”
Furthermore, McGee asserted, “There is absolutely nothing straightforward about a PLA invasion of Taiwan.” He cited the island’s mountainous terrain and the determination of its population to defend their homeland as significant obstacles to a successful invasion.
(With inputs from agencies)

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