DEVASTATION INEVITABLE IF CHINA ATTACKS TAIWAN AND JAPAN
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes on March 17, holding him responsible for the abduction of children from Ukraine. The decision must constitute an unbearable insult to the Russian dictator who glorifies Russian history and dreams about restoring the Russian Empire as its leader.
The warrant itself will not directly lead to Putin’s arrest. But the court should be given high marks for demonstrating its firm resolve that mankind will never forgive him for having launched a war of aggression against Ukraine in the 21st century. It will cause his international influence to further decline. National leaders who stand by Putin must be prepared to be viewed as being in the same class.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who visited Moscow as a state guest March 20-22, is one of these leaders who must be viewed in this way. Although he pretends to be neutral, claiming to want to play the part of a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, Xi himself is a villain who has taken the lead in implementing a genocidal policy toward China’s Muslim Uyghur population. A handshake between Xi and Putin is a nightmare for mankind.
Matt Pottinger, a prominent China expert who served as former President Donald Trump’s deputy national security advisor, stated on a Washington Post forum on March 6: “Xi Jinping is now conniving to start providing arms and ammunition to Russia to prosecute the largest war in Europe since 1945.”
US government sources said on March 18 the US has confirmed that Russia has been using rounds of Chinese ammunition in Ukraine. Although the sources did not specify if China had provided the ammunition directly or through a third country, the fact stands that Chinese ammunition has actually been used in the war. A number of Chinese-made drones are known to have already been used by the Russian military, although how they made their way into Ukraine remains unclear. In any event, China’s plot to supply lethal weapons to Russia has obviously been under way.
While backing Russia in this fashion behind the scenes, China has the nerve to repeatedly boast that it is playing the part of a neutral peace broker. Under a think cloak of pacifism, All Xi is interested in is lessons for a planned invasion of Taiwan available from Russia’s experience in the Ukraine war.
China’s First Objective: Depletion of Energy Sources
On January 27, General Michael Minihan, head of US Air Mobility Command (AMC), said: “I hope I am wrong…but my gut feeling tells me that we (the US and China) will fight (over Taiwan) in 2025.” He ordered an estimated 50,000 men under his command to be prepared for the war. The AMC has at its disposal a total of 500 transport and aerial refueling aircraft, tasked to transport troops, weapons, ammunition, and supplies to Taiwan from Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland should China attack the self-governing island.
Kiyofumi Iwata, a former chief of staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, is of the opinion that a mission on such a grandiose scale would require elaborate and complicated preparations and take years to devise and carry out.
The US military already has started taking action. Among other things, the US plans to quadruple the number of its marines stationed in Taiwan to some 200 “in the coming months,” according to the February 24 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Strategic ambiguity, which has long been the US policy toward Taiwan, has in substance been actually switched to a military operation designed to more explicitly back the self-governing island militarily.
How is China trying to contend with this changing US posture toward Taiwan? The world saw what China’s Taiwan strategy would entail in early August when then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) immediately set up six military training areas encircling the island, completely blockading it. What would have happened to Taiwan had the blockade lasted longer than seven days? First, there would be a total blackout of the entire island due to a depletion of its prime energy source–LNG (liquified natural gas).
President Tsai Ing-wen has pledged a nuclear power phaseout. So there would be an immediate power outage if Taiwan uses up its 11 days worth of LNG reserves. It was fortunate that the PLA’s ruthless military drills in the six training areas around Taiwan ended after a week. A chill runs down the spine when one wonders what the consequences would have been had the blockade lasted four more days. If an attack on Taiwan becomes real, the Chinese will certainly not lift its blockade in just seven days.
A blockade would mean a crisis for Japan as well. A naval encirclement of Taiwan would cut off Japan’s sea lanes in the South China Sea, preventing Japanese ships from passing through both the Taiwan Strait and the Bashi Channel (between Taiwan and the Philippines). Just like Taiwan, Japan would have its sea lanes shut down, leading to a depletion of imported coal, LNG, and crude oil on which its economy depends.
The PLA’s next step would be an invasion of Taiwan, where the Chinese would reproduce what they have learned from the merciless attack Russia launched against Ukraine. Xi would utilize what he had learned from Russia’s mistakes in the ongoing war, i.e., it is essential for China to keep US troops away from Taiwan in order to win.
Taiwan is 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) away from the US forces stationed in Guam, 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) from Hawaii, and 6,250 miles (10,000 kilometers) from the US mainland. In a next world war, both the US and China would refrain from attacking each other’s mainland in order to avoid a nuclear war.
Targets: Civilian and Industrial Infrastructure
How would a Chinese attack on Taiwan affect Japan? One recalls a statement made by US State Secretary Antony Blinken at Stanford University last October 17 concerning China having switched its status quo policy toward Taiwan. Blinken had this to say:
“The Chinese government is pursuing its plan to annex Taiwan on a much faster timeline…If peaceful means didn’t work then it would employ coercive means, and possibly if coercive means don’t work then maybe forceful means to achieve its objective.”
China would most likely apply to Japan the “forceful means” Blinken has referred to. Therefore, the US and Japan must be prepared for a possible PLA attack on not only the US Air Force Base in Kadena, Okinawa, 470 miles (750 kilometers) from Taiwan, but the islands of Yonaguni, Ishigaki, and Miyako nearby as it strives to deny US forces access to Taiwan. Iwata opined that, in order to neutralize the islands, the PLA would most likely first blow up the islands’ power stations and cut off their telecommunications systems and submarine cables, adding:
“By the time such a situation would develop in and around Okinawa, however, US forces would have started landing on Taiwan. That’s when the US-Japan alliance would start clicking, with military action taking precedence from this point on. What I wish to stress is that, at that stage, China would be doing everything Russia has been doing to Ukraine up to now in order to plunge all of Japan into dysfunction by attacking key infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, train stations, arterial highways, and so on.
“This, I am afraid, may be difficult for most Japanese to come to grips with after having taken peace for granted for nearly 80 years since the end of the last war. But this is what is meant by a ‘crisis in Taiwan being equal to one in Japan.’”
What should Japan do going forward to acquire deterrence powerful enough to prevent war? First and foremost, stresses Iwata, Japan must be fully committed to giving unwavering support to US forces deployed to defend Taiwan. Next, Japan should cooperate closely with the US military in defending Okinawa and Sakishima Islands while creating a solid defense system across Japan capable of deterring missile and terror attacks from China. There should be no compromise in this undertaking. We should then speedily start building a framework aimed at accommodating Okinawa and Nansei residents, Japanese in Taiwan, and the Taiwanese who may need to flee their island. Only by first establishing such a system can we really let the world know Japan is seriously committed to defending Taiwan. It is also important for the government to articulate to the Japanese people that defending Taiwan is as critical as defending Japan itself.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 1,042 in the March 30, 2023 issue of The Weekly Shincho)