Taiwan’s ADIZ is breached yet again but this time by more than two dozen PLAAF fighter planes , forcing it to shift the methods it takes to defend itself.
Jaime Ocon, Taiwan Center for Security Studies
Yesterday (April 12) Taiwan’s ADIZ was not only breached again but was met this time with a reported 25 PLAAF airpieces entering the zone. Out of the almost two dozen fighter planes, a number of aircraft continued to make a half circle near the coast of southern Taiwan, until finally heading back to Mainland China. For many countries around the world, the sounds from a squadron of Chinese PLAAF would undoubtedly cause chaos and commotion but for Taiwan however this has become the norm. Nevertheless, this stunt of force was the largest in terms of the number of planes deployed this year and both the US and Taiwan recognize the apparent threat on the horizon.
The move comes after Taiwan and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding on March 25 to establish a Coast Guard Working Group (CGWG). Experts believe that the MoU was passed as part of a response to China’s Coast Guard Law, which recently allowed the country’s coast guard ships to go weapons free against foreign ships in China’s claimed territorial waters under certain conditions. Beijing continues to poke into Taiwanese territory to demonstrate its willingness to reunite Taiwan by force if necessary , as part of its ultimate goal of unification before 2049.
In a paper titled , The Longer Telegram: Toward A New American China Strategy, written by an anonymous source from the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, it is clear that reunification of Taiwan is not only one of several goals laid for China in the coming future but possibly the #1 priority. Make no mistake, Taiwan is well aware of the coming storm on the horizon and while it is no longer a question of “what if”, the more important question is how and when. A few days after a previous incursion (March 26) of 20 planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ, a senior official in Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence stated that it would no longer scramble planes, instead opting for missile defense systems to intercept any targets. Soon after Taiwan’s Air Force announced plans to upgrade its Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles, aiming for all systems to deploy in late 2025.
The move makes complete sense when put into perspective that Taiwan had spent almost $900 million as of October 2020 on scrambling fighters against Chinese PLAAF. Taiwan’s air power capability can operate roughly 290 combat aircraft compared to China’s 1,700. The numbers don’t favor the possibility of the island maintaining air superiority. Thus, it was imperative that Taiwan continued to bolster up its land-to-air missile defense systems to deter the sorties of fighter planes China possesses. Under the Trump administration , Taiwan was able to make significant improvements in its defence capabilities , a promise that the United States has kept since the signing of the Taiwan Relations Act to provide a means for the island to defend itself. Newly elected President Biden has continued Trump’s generosity in the sense of the magnitude of purchases Taiwan is able to complete, but will that be the case in the future ?
This raises the question that ultimately will be the deciding factor of cross-strait relations; Will the United States defend Taiwan directly if a Chinese invasion were to transpire ? The answer is not clear but if the United States were not to respond, either directly or indirectly, its security credibility in Asia would be gone as well as its ability to provide its version of security in the region. More so, with Beijing’s new found success, were it to successfully take the island, would excel China’s case as a new security hyper-power and more than challenge the U.S militarily.
President Biden is thus left with a century defining task of manifesting an Asian Policy that can address, or somewhat establish, the policy towards Taiwan’s defence. Not much has differed from that of former President Trump’s attitude towards China, but that’s where the rhetoric becomes key in analyzing the U.S’s next move. It has an attitude but not a strategy, and as March has come and gone the United States has yet to release its policy for dealing with a continent that will no doubt dominate the rest of the world in terms of economy and security.