China analyst sounds the alarm on Taiwan

by WorldTribune Staff, March 3, 2021

The day Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping decides the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can win a war to conquer Taiwan, “that is when his war will begin,” a China analyst noted.

“To ensure that Xi never gains that confidence it is now necessary for the United States to shed any notions of ‘forbearance’ in arms sales to Taiwan,” Richard Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center and contributing editor for, wrote in a March 1 analysis for the Taipei Times.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, where pilots from Taiwan are trained to fly the aircraft. / U.S. Air Force

Recognizing the PLA’s mounting regional military threat, President Donald Trump “took the hard decisions to sell 66 new F-16s to Taiwan and in late 2020 to sell nearly 600 missiles to Taiwan, including for the first time 64 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) 300km range short-range ballistic missiles,” Fisher noted.

“But this should be viewed as a beginning, not as a new benchmark that must wait 4-8 years for re-evaluation by a successor administration,” Fisher wrote. “Six hundred missiles, most subsonic speed anti-ship cruise missiles, will help deter a PLA invasion attempt. But they will not decisively defeat one. The U.S. must exceed the sales record of the Trump administration if it is to decisively deter Xi Jinping.”

Fisher noted some options to consider:

First, the U.S. and Taiwan should cooperate in building up a stockpile of U.S.-built weapons that will better help Taiwan to defeat an initial invasion or blockade attempt. The U.S. should sell Taiwan a much larger number of AIM-120 self-guided air-to-air missiles (AAM), more ATACMS ballistic missiles, PATRIOT missile-defense missiles, and soldier-launched JAVELIN anti-armor missiles.

Second, instead of waiting years for U.S. companies to build missiles and spare parts, the urgency of the PLA threat to Taiwan justifies consideration of going to U.S. munitions stocks to accelerate Taiwan’s assembling of a larger weapons stockpile. A couple of hundred AIM-120s or even ATACMS will not diminish U.S. capabilities, while Taiwan payments could be used to replenish those U.S. stockpiles.

Third, it is time to revive the practice of providing Taiwan with the most modern U.S. weapons. In 1958 the U.S. supplied Taiwan with the world’s first modern infrared guided short-range AAM, the AIM-9 Sidewinder. In combat resulting from the Taiwan Crisis of that year, the AIM-9 made slightly inferior Taiwan Air Force F-86 Sabre fighters instantly superior to PLA Air Force J-5/MiG-17 fighters.

Related: China’s massive transportation investment will facilitate geostrategic power projection, March 2, 2021

The U.S. should also “sell Taiwan the 500km range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) and new high-power laser defense weapons,” Fisher wrote. “The long-range AIM-260 will push H-6K bombers to launch their cruise missiles from longer ranges, and the PrSM will have an anti-ship seeker, allowing attacks against masses of PLA invasion ships almost as far north as Shanghai. High-power lasers will enable Taiwan to defeat new PLA unmanned ‘swarm’ weapons and eventually, shoot down PLA missiles at exponentially less cost than missile interceptors.”

If Taiwan is lost to the communists, the island nation would be turned into “a massive base for projecting maritime and missile forces around the world,” Fisher noted. “This then would condemn future U.S. generations to multiple wars with China to preserve U.S. economic access and political freedom. A far better option is to ensure Taiwan remains free. That now requires arms sales policies unrestricted by the ‘forbearance’ of previous decades.”

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