USAF GENERAL WARNS OF US-CHINA CLASH OVER TAIWAN IN 2025
A four-star US Air Force general predicts the US and China will clash over Taiwan in 2025.
“I hope I am wrong… (but) my gut feeling tells me we will fight in 2025,” wrote General Michael Manihan, head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), in a memo sent to all AMC commanders and other Air Force Operational commanders. NBC News got a leaked copy of the memo and reported the story on January 27. Manihan’s warning is very much our business, as Japan has aligned itself with the US and Taiwan and would fight against China should it attack the self-governing island.
Entitled February 2023 Orders in Preparation for—The Next Fight, the nine-point memo constitutes concise and direct instructions.
Manihan bases his predictions on three factors: 1) Chinese President Xi Jin-ping secured his third term and set his “war council” in October 2022; 2) Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason; and 3) US presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. “Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” Manihan warns.
Before assuming his current position, Manihan served as Deputy Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii (September 2019-August 2021).
AMC’s central responsibility is to support US and allied troops along the “first island chain” by fully utilizing its communication, fast-response, and integration capabilities. Manihan’s memo reflects his strong resolve to “fight and win inside” the island chain that stretches from the Kuriles islands, around Japan and Taiwan, and down to the Philippines and Indonesia. What do AMC’s integrated forces lack under present circumstances in responding effectively to any contingency after fortifying the areas inside the island chain to deter and defeat Chinese forces? Manihan has ordered his officers to review all tactics, technique, and procedures. In their preparations, they are to be “governed by the principle of calculated training risk.” But the general also notes in his memo that “if you are comfortable in your approach to training, then you are not taking enough risk.”
Manihan gives orders that would strike most Japanese as too harsh: “All AMC aligned personnel with weapons qualifications will fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most. Aim for the head.”
General’s Prognosis Presumably Shared by US Government
Manihan further states:
“All AMC personnel will consider their personal affairs and whether a visit should be scheduled with their servicing base legal office to ensure they are legally ready and prepared.”
Manihan emphasizes: “All commanders will acknowledge this order directly to me immediately. Then report all 2022 accomplishments preparing for the China fight, and forecast major efforts in 2023 through command chains by COB 28 February 2023.” This part of Manihan’s instructions conveys a particularly acute sense of urgency.
Once the fighting starts, the Chinese Army would be expected to attack US and allied forces with a swarm of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). The Chinese are said to be preparing for a battle in which, in addition to incessant missile attacks, they would launch hundreds or thousands of drones at once in order to drive US and allied forces into a helpless situation. Manihan’s countermeasures: “KC-135 units will coordinate to provide a conceptual means of air delivering 100 off-the-shelf size and type UAVs from a single aircraft.”
Questioned about Manihan’s strongly worded memo, the Department of Defense
had this to say: “These comments are not representative of the department’s view on China.” Kiyofumi Iwata, former Chief of Staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force, interprets the remarks as follows:
“Commander Manihan precedes his warnings with ‘My gut tells me…’ and comes up with the bold prediction that a war may erupt between the US and China in 2025. I think that this prognosis was shared in advance within the US government, but the impact would have been too strong if it had been openly made public. If the general says it is his ‘gut feeling’—his personal opinion—that doesn’t put the government in an awkward position.”
Judging from the remarks made by a number of influential American officials, it would not be mistaken to assume there is a growing view within the US government that China is getting ready to launch an attack on Taiwan much “sooner” than generally expected. Last October, U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Gilday warned during an address at the think tank Atlantic Council that China could invade Taiwan as early as 2023, stating that China always delivers on its promises much sooner than expected. In the same month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked during an interview at Bloomberg’s office in Washington: “They wanted to speed up the process by which they would pursue reunification.”
There is one thing I wish to clarify in connection with the “2+2” (Japan-United States Security Consultative Committee) talks held in Washington on January 12 between the foreign and defense ministers of both nations and a summit that followed the next day between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden. Japan’s efforts to bolster its defense capabilities were highly lauded as an initiative that is expected to bring about a historic change in the alliance. The US side also appreciated the belated resolve Japan showed to become more committed to its own defense, ready to finally depart from the previous role-sharing in which Japan (playing the part of the shield) heavily turned to the US (the spear).
No Review of “Guide Lines” for Security cooperation?
In view of the change Japan is making in its posture toward its defense, a review of the “guidelines” of the defense cooperation with the US should naturally be in order, but neither government has referred to a revision during or following the consultations in Washington. These guidelines reflect the fundamental thinking of the Japanese government regarding the nation’s defense and constitute the very foundation of our defense policy. If our previous bilateral relations are to change due to our bolstered defense capability, then a review of the guidelines is mandatory. A source close to America’s center of power explained why the US government has refrained from referring to a guideline review:
“Now is the time for both governments to start concentrating our efforts solely on bolstering our military capabilities as speedily as possible. A review of the guidelines, although necessary, consumes enormous time and energy. In light of the fast moves that we witness China has been making, I don’t think either government has the time and energy available for a review of the guidelines.”
Revisiting the recent “2+2” consultations in Washington, Iwata has this to say:
“Following the consultations, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told the press no review of the guidelines is under consideration, before even being asked by the press any question concerning this point. Also, on January 16, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a regular news conference the guidelines would not be reviewed for the simple reason that Japan would acquire a counterforce capability. What these remarks presumably imply is the Japanese government thinks now is a time of real urgency and that it wants to devote all of its efforts to bolster our Self-Defense Forces and deterrence against possible attacks from our adversaries. The government most likely feels that, unless we do so, we may not be able to effectively deter an impending attack from China in time.”
Japan and the US are of one accord that a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan may come sooner than later and that preparing for it is their top priority.
All the more reason for not brushing aside as exaggerated or too extreme the sheer sense of tension that characterizes Manihan’s memo. Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent think tank in Washington, released the results of a study simulating a war over Taiwan between the US and China. Although the US triumphed over China in each of the 24 simulations, they did not bring into perspective a possible use of nuclear weapons by China. There is no guarantee that China will not use nukes. Should a war erupt between the US and Japan, Japan would suffer a tragedy that would be beyond all imagination. That is why we should exert all possible efforts to discourage China from engaging in a war of aggression.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,035 in the February 2, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)