Thirty-two PLA aircraft and nine vessels were detected near Taiwan in a 24-hour period, including a drone that flew along the east coast, the defense ministry said
Taiwan’s growing capability to blunt a potential Chinese invasion could be stymied by domestic political and infrastructure challenges, an analysis from the US Congress’ research arm showed.
Taiwan’s 2023 defense budget of about US$24.6 billion represents nearly a 10 percent increase from 2020. It is the largest purchaser of US arms since 2020 and its defense relationship with the US “confers a range of political and military advantages as well,” Congressional Research Service Asian affairs analyst Caitlin Campbell said in a new assessment released on Thursday, the first of its kind by the agency in several years.
However, strained civil-military relations and a host of other challenges could undermine Taiwan, the report said.
It is also not clear what costs Taiwanese would be willing to bear in the face of Chinese aggression, it said.
“The archipelago’s energy, food, water, Internet and other critical infrastructure systems are vulnerable to external disruption,” the report said. “Civil defense preparedness is insufficient, according to some observers, and Taiwan’s military struggles to recruit, retain and train personnel.”
China’s military is training for missile strikes, seizures of Taiwan’s outlying territory, blockades and an amphibious landing, which the report calls “the riskiest and most challenging campaign,” it said.
Beijing is also ramping up “gray zone” pressure below the threshold of an all-out attack that consists of “persistent, low-level, noncombat operations that analysts say are eroding Taiwan’s military advantages and readiness,” it said.
Among the biggest challenges is that Chinese military operations near Taiwan during peacetime could weaken Taipei’s ability to tell if Beijing is preparing for an actual invasion.
If China “were to use such operations as cover for an imminent attack, it could significantly shorten the time Taiwan would have to respond,” the report said.
Those maneuvers give China training and intelligence-gathering opportunities, it added.
In related news, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday said that 32 aircraft from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and nine PLA navy vessels were detected in the 24 hours between 6am on Friday and 6am yesterday, including a combat drone that flew along the east coast.
Twenty of the aircraft either crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or breached Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, the ministry said, adding that the aircraft involved included Su-30 and J-10 fighters, and anti-submarine aircraft.
Taiwanese aircraft, vessels and missile systems responded to the activities, it said.
A map provided by the ministry showed that a Chinese TB-001 drone flew to the north, headed over the Pacific Ocean and broadly tracked Taiwan’s east coast, before looping back along the same flight path and returning to China.
Chinese state media have called the TB-001 the “twin-tailed scorpion” and showed pictures of it with missiles under its wings, saying it is capable of high-altitude, long-range missions.
In April, Taipei said the same model of drone had flown around Taiwan.
The ministry this week said it could not judge whether the drills China started on Saturday last week had formally ended, as Beijing had made no announcement.
This week China condemned the US for approving further arms sales to Taiwan, and Taipei announced it planned to spend US$3 billion next year to buy weapons including fighter jets.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense on Friday said it scrambled fighter jets to monitor Chinese air force bombers and drones flying near Okinawa and Taiwan.
Additional reporting by AP
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