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Friday, November 26, 2021
Prediction and Judgment: Will the U.S. Intervene if War Breaks Out in Taiwan Strait?
Chan Kung

Will the United States send troops to defend Taiwan? The answer to this is a simple and clear “yes”.

This was not just an issue hotly debated in the U.S. or Taiwan, but in Mainland China as well. In addition to strategic deterrence, countless military exercises by Mainland China are the results of its judgement on the overall situation. When it comes to the question of whether the United States is willing to shed blood to defend Taiwan and send troops against the PLA's offensive, many people would consider this to be simply impossible.

It is one thing to look at the situation deductively; it is quite another to analyze the facts and draw conclusions from them.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that the U.S., its NATO allies, Japan and South Korea will join the war to defend Taiwan. The following are the primary reasons for the analysis:

First, the United States and its Western allies have adopted typical defensive measures as the alleged “freedom of navigation (FON)”. Scholars familiar with geopolitics will understand that this is a typical strategic defense and a preventive countermeasure. The U.S. has already made a strategic deployment in this matter on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This means that it has already taken action to involve itself in the conflict. In fact, the fundamental purpose of FON here is to protect Taiwan. The PLA's strategic deterrence against Taiwan from the mainland came with a large number of military aircraft flying over the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan, crossing the centerline of the strait, posing a direct threat to Taiwan’s main island defense. Therefore, the countermeasures of the United States and NATO are to use FON to conduct strategic confrontation.

To show that the Taiwan Strait is an international route, the US and allies sent warships to cross the strait repeatedly in high-profile moves, thus attempting to prevent Mainland China from engaging in maritime warfare in those waters. In this way, a war between the two sides of the strait is tantamount to blocking FON, and this would violate international law, making the Taiwan issue an international issue that gives the U.S. and its allies the reason to intervene.

Second, the U.S. and its allies are not in the position to abandon Taiwan. The Western Pacific route has traffic of more than 80,000 ships each year, being an area where ships from Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and other regions need to pass through. Because of the unstable sea direction of the Pacific Ocean, most of the ships travel from the Taiwan Strait for safety reasons. For instance, three-quarters of Japan's cargo volume must pass through Taiwanese waters. Therefore, the waters of Taiwan affect the economic prosperity and development of East Asian countries, and any outcome of a hypothetical war would have a major impact on these countries. Japan is surrounded by sea on all sides, its landmass is relatively small, and its resources are scarce. Japan is not self-sufficient in fuels and raw materials such as oil, natural gas and cooking coal thus it has to rely on imports. Because of Japan's heavy dependence on maritime transportation, the sea routes in the Western Pacific can be touted as "Japan's lifeline". Approximately 70% of Japan’s oil needs are transported from the Persian Gulf via the Strait of Melaka-South Sea-Taiwan or Bashi Strait-Ryukyu-Japan. A large part of Japan's manufactured products is also transported through this maritime route. If the route is blocked, this would cut off the main artery of Japan's economy, and its economy would collapse within a short period. If ships heading for Japan detour east of the Philippines without passing through the South Sea, this will increase the cost of Japanese manufactured goods by roughly 25%. This means the Japanese economy will not be able to adjust or adapt to this all of a sudden and it may lead to its immediate collapse.

Third, the Chinese economy would collapse, and the Chinese military's overseas deployment would be divided and annihilated. If there is a war between the two sides of the strait, the U.S. and its allies would undoubtedly take the most intense countermeasures to completely blockade the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, so that China's energy transportation routes, including the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, will be immediately cut off. In addition, China’s overseas military bases and their troops will be immediately surrounded and wiped out. Third, China's finance and all its overseas assets may be confiscated or suffer devastating blows. Therefore, the cost is extremely high. Even if Mainland Chinese force successfully enters Taiwan, it is likely to face long-term guerrilla warfare. At the same time, its economy would become unsustainable. The forces surrounding Mainland China will also take the opportunity to take over parts of its vast territories.

The conclusion is obvious. Even if the U.S. does not intervene in this, Japan would not hesitate to attack, as it did in Pearl Harbor, because it really has no other option. However, due to the existence of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, as long as Japan enters the war, the U.S. will inevitably join in. Therefore, the U.S. and Japan and all their allies would join the war in the Taiwan Strait, if the war does break out unless they have chosen to completely abandon Japan (Note: this, of course, is not impossible in the future, but it is another matter). Furthermore, the cost of war that China faces is extremely high, which will affect its economy and politics.

Therefore, even if the PLA wants to further increase the intensity of the confrontation, it must adopt indirect means, such as the use of long-range missile attacks that theoretically do not affect the routes of the Taiwan Strait (Note: this is still highly risky). It would be near to impossible for the PLA to step into the main island of Taiwan. In other words, judging from the current global geopolitical situation, Taiwan’s status quo is the best situation for China, and it is not appropriate for China to pursue greater geopolitical interests.