Beijing warns Washington against intervention after US defense journal suggests redeployment of troops in Taiwan

Beijing warns Washington against intervention after US defense journal suggests redeployment of troops in Taiwan
Source: Reuters
China will “start a just war” to safeguard its territorial integrity if US troops return to Taiwan, says Chinese state media

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper on Thursday, September 24, slammed an article published in the latest edition of Military Review, the professional journal of the United States Army.

The piece titled “Deterring the Dragon: Returning US Forces to Taiwan”, authored by Captain Walker D. Mills of the US Marine Corps for the September-October edition of the journal, suggested that the US Army should redeploy troops in Taiwan to thwart a potential Chinese attack.

“The United States needs to recognize that its conventional deterrence against PLA action to reunify Taiwan may not continue to hold without a change in force posture. Deterrence should always be prioritized over open conflict between peer or near-peer states because of the exorbitant cost of a war between them,” Mills wrote in his article, adding that if the US wanted to maintain credible conventional deterrence against a PLA attack on Taiwan, it needed to consider basing troops in Taiwan.

“If PLA forces can prevent U.S. forces from responding reflexively or immediately to PLA (People’s Liberation Army) aggression, the United States will either accede to a quick PLA victory in a Taiwanese-mainland China conflict, or be forced to wage a long, costly campaign to reestablish access to Taiwan with a far from certain outcome," Mills stated.

Lashing out at the suggestion made in the article, Global Times Editor Hu Xijin tweeted, “I must warn people in the US and Taiwan who hold this kind of thinking. Once they take the step of returning US forces to Taiwan, the PLA will definitely start a just war to safeguard China’s territorial integrity. China’s Anti-Secession Law is a tiger with teeth.”

Hu referred to the anti-secession law ratified in March 2005 under the Hu Jintao administration, which authorizes China to take military action against Taiwan in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence.

In a Global Times editorial from September 24, columnist Liu Xuanzun quoted an unnamed Chinese mainland analyst who asserted, “This crazy suggestion does no good for people in Taiwan, and if it was to come true, the PLA would take resolute military action and realize reunification by force.”

Another unnamed military expert quoted in Liu’s editorial emphasized that the redeployment of troops in Taiwan would deteriorate US-China relations further.

“If the US does deploy troops to Taiwan, it not only breaks the Three Joint Communiqués fundamental to China-US diplomatic relations, but also triggers articles in China’s Anti-Secession Law and enables the state to employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the expert said.

The Three Joint Communiques are basically joint statements made between the US and China that are extremely significant to the relations between the two countries. Under the first communique, issued in 1972, the two sides had agreed to respect each other’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the second communique, issued in 1978, the US had declared that it would end formal political ties with Taiwan while preserving economic and cultural ties with it. Under the third communique, issued in 1982, the US had agreed to gradually decrease arms sales to Taiwan.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act 1979, the US provides “defense articles and defense services” to Taiwan in such quantity that enables it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. A Reuters report from September 16 claimed that the US plans to sell a range of weapon systems to Taiwan including mines, cruise missiles and drones.

The defense association between Washington and Taipei has become stronger over the years, especially under the Trump administration. The US and Taiwan have signed seven major arms deals worth US$13.3 billion since 2017. In August 2019, the US government approved a massive US$8 billion arms sale to Taiwan involving 66 new F-16 fighter jets.

Downplaying the possibility of the US stationing troops in Taiwan, Chinese military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping, quoted in Liu’s editorial, told the Global Times on September 24 that even though the US had enhanced military cooperation with Taiwan, it would refrain from redeploying forces on the island as such an action would lead to a confrontation between the two powers.

“The US would have to weigh and consider balance,” Song said.

Song also observed that Taiwan was only a pawn for the US to hurt China’s sovereign interests and the US would abandon the island if it hurt their interests.

The Military Review article controversy erupted following Taiwan’s warning to China last week that it would take all steps necessary to defend itself amid increased military activity in the Taiwan Strait in recent months by the PLA, which Taipei claims to be part of Beijing’s expansionist desires in the region and a strategy to intimidate them into accepting Chinese sovereignty.

The growing bonhomie between Washington and Taipei has irked Beijing, which sees it as a threat to China’s territorial sovereignty and claims the self-ruled island to be an integral part of China.

In the last two months, there have been unprecedented visits to Taiwan by two senior US diplomats. US Health Secretary Alex Azar traveled to Taipei in August, which was the first trip by a top US official to Taiwan in four decades, and last week the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs   Keith Krach visited Taiwan to attend a memorial service for late Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui.

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