Taiwan could survive initial China invasion, says minister

Taiwan could survive initial China invasion, says minister

Goal is to hold off mainland forces for two weeks until help arrives from US and others

Soldiers with an artillery unit take part in a live-fire military exercise, which simulates an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army, in Pingtung, Taiwan in May 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
Soldiers with an artillery unit take part in a live-fire military exercise, which simulates an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army, in Pingtung, Taiwan in May 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Taiwan’s defence minister says the island’s forces could repel an initial attack from China if they are well-prepared.

“China is certainly strong enough to start a war, but it’s not so strong that it can successfully take Taiwan within one or two weeks,” Chiu Kuo-cheng said in an interview published in English in CommonWealth magazine this week.

Chiu also said that “Taiwan can definitely make it through” any blockade the People’s Liberation Army  (PLA) imposed, as long as it had the necessary supplies. “There are many ways to get around a blockade and we can use the internet and other forms of communication to break it,” he said.

Holding off the PLA for two weeks is a key goal of Taiwan’s military because it would allow time for the United States and other allies to come to its aid.

Beijing’s unprecedented military drills following a visit to Taipei in August by then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi included manoeuvres off major cities and both east and west of the island in what appeared to be practice for encircling the island so that it would be cut off from outside help.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has raised concern that Beijing would be emboldened to invade the island that it has pledged to one day bring under control. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday urged the world to stop drawing such parallels.

Chiu said Taiwan was absorbing lessons from Ukraine just the same.

“Another lesson from the Ukraine war is that it is important to be prepared,” he told the magazine. “Ukraine was divided into eastern and western theatres of war, but Taiwan is not. Once Taiwan is at war, there will be no front and no rear supply, it will all be one war zone.”

Admiral Harry Harris, the former commander of US forces in the Pacific, told Congress earlier this month that the US ignores the prospect of China invading Taiwan within years “at our peril”.

Some China experts have questioned public warnings about a timeline for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. They say Beijing would much prefer to absorb the island eventually without the use of force, as Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said publicly.

They also say that the 2027 date that is frequently mentioned is simply the year China has set for its military modernisation goals, rather than a hard deadline for conquering Taiwan. The PLA will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2027.

Separately, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo met with US officials in Washington on Tuesday, the semi-official Central News Agency reported.

They visited the Washington headquarters of the American Institute in Taiwan, accompanied by the island’s representative to the US, Hsiao Bi-khim, CNA reported.

Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and Assistant US Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner arrived at the building around the same time.

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