China accused the US of being the “biggest destroyer of peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait following the passage of an American guided-missile destroyer through the waterway, according to reports.
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While China asserts that its troops are well-prepared to respond to any threat, the PLA Navy is likely to face some challenges, if it decides to invade Taiwan immediately, claims a western defense analyst.
China and the US have been at loggerheads over the self-governing island, which Beijing claims to be a part of its territory and that it will be unified with the mainland. China is also critical of Taiwan’s diplomatic relations with western countries, especially Washington.
In recent years, the US has increased its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region and in the Taiwan Strait. While Chinese experts believe the country can counter the US, the question is — can the PLA Navy easily invade Taiwan?
The Latest ‘Provocation’
The PLA Eastern Theater Command tracked and monitored the USS Benfold guided-missile destroyer when it made a transit in the Taiwan Straits on July 29, Senior Colonel Shi Yi, spokesperson of the command, was quoted as saying by the state-owned Global Times.
This was the seventh transit in the Taiwan Strait by a US warship this year. According to the US 7th Fleet, the transit of USS Benfold is a sign of the US pledge to a free and open Indo-Pacific, USNI News reported.
The warship had earlier performed a similar ‘freedom of navigation operation’ near the Paracel Islands, which is also claimed by China.
At the time, China had claimed that it had chased the USS Benfold out of the South China Sea, a claim the US Navy had denied. Instead, it had called out China’s actions to “assert its excessive maritime claims at the expense of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea”.
Last month, the USS Curtis Wilbur had also passed through the Taiwan Strait.
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Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative said, the US has increased its freedom of navigation operations in the region. Over the past few years, the number of transits in and around the South China Sea has seen a marked increase.
In 2016, three US warships had crossed through the South China Sea, which increased to four patrols the next year, five in 2018, eight in 2019 and finally nine transits were reported in 2020.
In the Taiwan Strait, the US warships had conducted nine transits in 2019 which increased to 15 transits in 2020, according to Collin Koh, a research fellow from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. This year, seven US warship transits have already been reported.
Troops of the PLA Eastern Theater Command are fully prepared to deal with all kinds of threats and provocations, and are determined, confident, and capable of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, the PLA spokesperson cited above said.
The US Continues To Back Taiwan
On his visit to Singapore, US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin asserted that the US will continue aiding Taiwan and other allies against the increasing belligerence of China. “We’ll stay focused on helping Taiwan to defend itself or having the capabilities to defend itself going forward”, Defence One quoted Austin as saying.
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He also mentioned that the US allies have increased their military activities in the region of the South China Sea. He was referring to the sailing of the British carrier strike group, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth near the South China Sea. The carrier group also included the US destroyer Sullivans, a US Marine Corps F-35 squadron, and ships of the Singapore Navy.
Taking note of the increased US presence in the region and transits by the US warships, Chinese experts opined that such tactics cannot succeed against the Chinese army.
Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator stated that through these actions the US is trying to control China’s power and influence in the larger Asia-pacific region, The Global Times reported. Zhongping asserted that China is determined to maintain “its military hegemony and political influence”.
Referring to the presence of the UK carrier strike group in the South China Sea, Chinese experts accused the US of provoking its allies against the Asian country and attempting to “gang up” to counter China.
However, they claim that China’s troops, their systematic combat capabilities, and logistics support will help the country in countering the US and its allies.
Can China Invade Taiwan?
A western defense analyst claims the PLA Navy “doesn’t have enough amphibious ships to transport the potentially millions of troops Beijing likely would mobilize for an invasion of Taiwan”.
Forbes‘ defense writer David Axe is of the view that Taiwan’s beaches will be overwhelmed by such a huge number of troops even if PLA manages to get more amphibious landing ships.
He argues that China’s plans to invade the self-governing island depend on how soon it can gain access to important ports of Taiwan.
To ensure this, the communist nation has been investing in Taiwan’s port development projects through some companies for some time now.
According to Axe, once it gains control over one of 10 Taiwanese ports, numerous commercial vessels can be incorporated into the service of the Chinese navy, which could be used to transport forces from Chinese ports to the port in Taiwan.
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As EurAsian Times has extensively reported, western governments have consistently accused China of debt-trap diplomacy in poor Asian and African nations. In Asia, experts say Pakistan and Sri Lanka are classic examples where Beijing holds immeasurable sway over the governments and their policies.
Many of the ports in Taiwan are now held by corporate groups having close ties with the Chinese Communist Party and its loyalists. The Forbes report mentions that in case of an attack, the loyalists can provide the Chinese government with significant intelligence inputs and other vital support.