Taiwan has always been a main beneficiary of the Indo-Pacific defense network led by the United States and its “arsenal of democracy,” to continue as long as it is a free nation. There is now an urgent need for Taiwan to consider missions that contribute actively to the deterrence of the Axis of Dictatorships led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Taiwan’s indigenous defense sector, built up since the early 1950s, is now a producer of world-class weapons and weapon systems backed by government-led international marketing efforts. But what it lacks is a place in the strategies of Washington and Tokyo as a contributor to the deterrence of wars for hegemony by the CCP and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The CCP has long been the world’s arsenal of oppression, serving dictatorships from North Korea, now Russia, to Pakistan, to the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America in a python-like strategy to constrict the democracies and force them into deeper layers of submission and then destruction.
Russia’s war against the Ukraine, which could blossom into multiple wars against Poland, the Baltic states, and Finland, would not be possible without direct Chinese large-scale commercial/economic support for the Russian economy. Direct major weapons support and indirect weapons support for Russia that China has made possible by building the arms industries of its proxies like North Korea and Iran.
Iran’s longstanding war against Israel, made more despicable on October 7, 2023, by the savage attacks by the Iranian-armed, funded and trained proxy Hamas; and the three cruise missiles fired against Israel by the Iranian allied and armed Houthi rebel forces in Yemen — shot down by the US Navy destroyer USS Carney on October 19, 2023 — were all made possible by the CCP’s broad economic and military technology support for Iran .
Russia’s engagement of Pyongyang as a source for artillery ammunition to use against Ukraine has marked the final evisceration of decades of military embargoes against North Korea, which China never enforced as it turned Pyongyang into a nuclear missile state.
Increasingly, Chinese proxies North Korea and Iran will give the CCP two sources for deniable nuclear weapons and missile exports to the CCP-led axis of dictatorships, adding a new horrific level to the CCP’s ongoing investments in anti-democratic wars in Europe, the Middle East, as far away as the Falklands Islands, all before the CCP accelerates its own open wars in Asia, starting with Taiwan.
TheUkraine’s valiant 20-month war of survival against Russian invasion has, according to an October 4 Voice of America report, cost Washington US$46.6 billion in military aid, while the European Union and Britian have supplied an additional US$34 billion. Actual numbers are now higher closer to US$100 billion
Ukraine’s requirement for up to 7,000 artillery shells a day has seriously depleted US and European artillery stocks, forcing crash reinvestments in production capacity that will take 1-2 years to achieve, while there is also great stress on anti-tank missile and loitering strike- drone production — shortages that could be exacerbated when more CCP-connected wars commence.
The slack in Western weapons production has been a boon for South Korea, which has created a broad, sophisticated weapons sector that is now meeting major demand for capable and competitively-priced weapons for Poland, the Philippines and Australia.
That Taiwan can contribute to broader democratic security beyond simply ensuring its survival as a democracy and helping to secure the First Island Chain, is not a new idea.
During the period of the US-Republic of China Mutual Defense Treaty (1955 to 1980), Taiwan hosted, at various times, US air forces, naval forces, and just briefly, US tactical nuclear forces. It was a center for logistic support for US forces during the Vietnam War, even contributing Special Forces in the failed effort to prevent Soviet and PRC-supported North Vietnam from conquering non-Communist South Vietnam.
Following the post-September 11, 2001 US and allied war to defeat the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Taiwan provided non-lethal military assistance to the new Afghan government. Although thankfully, Washington encouraged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to be low-key about its assistance in part to avoid provoking Beijing.
That was a mistake then, and did nothing to stop the CCP from amassing what is now a massive existential military threat to Taiwan and its democratic culture, and then to the world once the CCP-PLA drafts Taiwan’s youth and turns Taiwan into an air- naval nuclear base for global military projection.
To be sure, Taiwan will require continued US leadership to sustain a global deterrent military coalition against the CCP, as Taipei will require increased acquisition of new technology and advanced weapons to deter Chinese attack.
But the ability of the CCP to foment, indirectly and directly, multiple wars against the democracies that will consume their weapons supplies, thus reducing their ability to deter additional CCP-instigated wars, demands that Taiwan’s weapons sector be enlisted to provide an additional source of weapons.
For example, in the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense’s September 12, 2023 bi-annual ROC National Defense Report, it was announced that Taiwan would produce 700 military-grade, and 7,000 civilian-grade, drones for Taiwan’s military forces by 2028.
This will be accomplished by investing in greater civil-sector drone development and production, such as the Thunder Tiger Group, which has developed its 200km range T-400 vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle (VTUAV), which can be armed with surveillance or weapon payloads.
For decades Taiwan’s National Chung-shan Institute for Science and Technology (NCIST) has also been developing families of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as its gasoline-engine powered delta-wing Chien Hsiang that can, like a cruise missile, perform precision guided attacks out to 1,000 kilometers.
It is originally based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries Harpy drone acquired in the 1990s, and also sold to China, which has copied it for export as the ASN-301, and likely sold to Iran, which has developed it into its inexpensive Shahed-136 family of long-range strike drones.
Taiwan, like the United States and Japan, has an increasing interest in deterring a Chinese attack against the Philippine islands in its Batanes Province, mid-way between the Philippines and Taiwan in the Bashi Strait, and the Philippine Island of Palawan in the South China Sea.
The former could become a key missile base to deny the PLA amphibious invasion routes across the Taiwan Strait, and to deny the PLA Navy from completely blockading Taiwan — while Palawan could become a base to deny the PLA power projection into Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean.
A joint Japan and Taiwan program to arm the Philippines with 1,000 Chien Hsiang drones and 300 T-400 drones would go far to deter CCP-PLA aggression in the South China Sea, fight PLA raids against Philippine islands, and possibly help deter a CCP- PLA war against Taiwan.
Furthermore, as the CCP’s North Korean proxy could easily foment a major war on the Korean Peninsula — or undertake strikes against Japan that would divert their military forces as well as the force and supplies of the United States — it would be most useful to build up stocks of basic munitions like artillery shells and anti-tank weapons in Taiwan, both to deter a CCP-PLA strike and to be a reserve supply of weapons to help defend South Korea and Japan.
In early May this year the Arlington, Virginia-based US-Taiwan Business Council led a delegation of 25 US defense contractors to explore a broad range of defense business opportunities between US and Taiwan defense concerns.
This effort now requires government-led direction from Washington and Tokyo to actually engage Taiwan’s defense sector in projects that deter CCP-PLA wars against Taiwan and its immediate neighbors, and contribute to a broader global arsenal of democracy to deter or defeat CCP-connected wars waged by its Axis of Dictatorships.
Richard D. Fisher, Jr. is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
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