China Will Increase Pressure on Taiwan in Next Two Years Rather Than Invade, Says Pentagon Official

The Pentagon’s top civilian for policy does not think China is likely to attack Taiwan in the next two years, although he expects Beijing to ratchet up pressure on Tapei as Xi Jinping continues to expand his military’s capabilities for a possible amphibious invasion. The Chinese response to House Speak Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to […]

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin H. Kahl holds a press briefing about the latest security assistance package in support of Ukraine at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 24, 2022. DoD Photo

The Pentagon’s top civilian for policy does not think China is likely to attack Taiwan in the next two years, although he expects Beijing to ratchet up pressure on Tapei as Xi Jinping continues to expand his military’s capabilities for a possible amphibious invasion.

The Chinese response to House Speak Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to the island served as a “test drive” for what an invasion or blockade might look like, Colin Kahl said. To express their anger over her visit, the Chinese began wide-ranging live fire exercises, deployed its two aircraft carriers, an amphibious assault ship and accompanying warships close to the island and repeatedly sent military aircraft across the Taiwan Strait, reported USNI News. They also test-fired a variety of missiles around the island.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution Friday, Kahl said China also ratcheted up pressure to “establish a sphere of influence” by flying military aircraft dangerously close to American aircraft and allies operating in international airspace to clear the way for any future military action near Taiwan and the Western Pacific.

The Peoples Liberation Army Air Force’s “come up and say hello” activity is provocative and could lead to a military incident, Kahl said.

Chinese aircraft this spring released chaff and flares at an Australian maritime surveillance P-8, then cut across its flight path and stayed there for a time, he said. Some of the debris entered at least one of the P-8’s engines.

“This is a challenge that will continue to grow in the future,” he said.

Kahl said the United States must make the investments “to show we can break through the bubble” of Chinese Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses. Those investments include undersea capabilities where the United States already has a technological advantage.

The U.S. also needs to “think differently about the capabilities of the Marines and the Army” when operating in the Pacific, Kahl said. He added both services are doing so and exercising in new ways together and with allies.

That investment includes thinking about current posture, now heavily concentrated toward Northeast Asia, and how best to work with allies like Australia and the United Kingdom through the agreement to share the technology Canberra needs to build and sustain nuclear attack submarines, as well as with the Quad, the informal security and economic development arrangement with Australia, Japan and India.

“We’ve had multi-carrier exercises [with the United Kingdom] off the coast of the Philippines” and have extended Republic of Korea and U.S. air exercises in the wake of more missile test-firings by Pyongyang, he said.

Kahl added these activities all fit in the Biden administration’s “admonishment to ourselves” on the value of integrated deterrence — the White House term for a whole of government response to China. There “has to be a daily effort to shape our adversary’s perception” of what the United States and its allies are capable of doing in a crisis. Some of that comes by what is revealed in exercises and announcements of tests, he added

Information operations against “gray zone activities” also has value, as the United States showed when it publicly warned of the Russian build-up to invade Ukraine by sharing intelligence publicly or most recently citing intelligence that Iran was planning to attack Saudi Arabia.

The idea behind these releases is both “shining a light” on what is happening behind an adversary’s closed doors and “throwing a lot of sand in the gears” causing an adversary to back off, Kahl said. In the case of Ukraine, it led to a unity of the NATO and European Union responses to the invasion by supplying Ukraine with arms and ammunition, intelligence and advanced systems and humanitarian aid. That unity extended to increasingly severe economic sanctions on Russian business, financial institutions and individuals.

In cyber, Kahl said the approach is different.

“Develop the tools and constantly be in contact with the adversary” so they know you are a presence,” he said.

“We have been [the Chinese] pacing challenge for years,” Kahl said drawing on language from the recently released National Defense Strategy. “The gap has closed,” but “no one should doubt the United States” retains the most capable military force.

The “PRC [People’s Republic of China] challenge is more global” in the long-term than that posed by Russia, although both are nuclear powers, Kahl said. The “acute” challenge, the strategy’s term for Moscow, is both “immediate and sharp” but more regional – in nations that made up the former Soviet Union and along NATO’s eastern border.

In the case of “opportunistic aggression” by one either Russia or China, if the United States is already engaged in a major theater conflict with the other, Kahl said, “we believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

He added Washington’s global network of allies and partners “are a hedge against a two-war scenario.”

China Deploys Aircraft Carriers, Prepares Military Drills Near Taiwan Following Pelosi Visit

Beijing deployed its two aircraft carriers this week and plans to start a series of live-fire exercises following Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported. Carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) sortied from their homeports as part of the retaliatory measures China planned in reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taipei […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

Beijing deployed its two aircraft carriers this week and plans to start a series of live-fire exercises following Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported.

Carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) sortied from their homeports as part of the retaliatory measures China planned in reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taipei as part of an expanded tour of the western pacific.

“The aircraft carrier Liaoning on Sunday embarked on a voyage from its homeport in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province and the aircraft carrier Shandong on Monday set out from its homeport in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province, accompanied by a Type 075 amphibious assault ship,” according to state-controlled Global Times on Tuesday.

A defense official told USNI News, as of Wednesday morning, U.S. ships operating in the region have not had any unsafe or unprofessional encounters with People’s Liberation Army Navy forces.

The moves come in parallel to extensive live-fire exercise drills the PLA announced that will fire weapons within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coast. The drills would surround Taiwan, with some crossing into waters claimed by the island, according to a New York Times graphic. At least two cross into Taiwan’s marine border.

China has warned ships and aircraft to stay out of the area for 72 hours while the drills are conducted, but it is unclear if Taiwan and the United States will follow, according to The New York Times.

The current situation is reminiscent of the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw the U.S. send two aircraft carriers groups to the area in response to China’s live fire drills. This time, the drills are closer to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the Reagan Carrier Strike Group and USS Tripoli (LHA-7) have been in the waters near Taiwan as of Monday, according to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker.

The Ronald Reagan CSG and Tripoli were in the vicinity due to normal operations, a Pentagon spokesperson said Monday. However, a senior defense official told USNI News that the ships were there as part of a contingency plan if there was a military reaction from China to Pelosi’s visit.

Destroyer USS Mustin Transited Taiwan Strait, Chinese Aircraft Carrier Followed

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer moved through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement. “The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Dec. 19 (local time) in accordance with international law,” the Navy said in a statement. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates […]

USS Mustin (DDG-89) transits the Taiwan Strait on Aug. 18, 2020. US Navy Photo

A U.S. guided-missile destroyer moved through the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

“The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit Dec. 19 (local time) in accordance with international law,” the Navy said in a statement. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Following Mustin’s move through the strait, Reuters reported that China’s new aircraft carrier on Sunday performed its own transit through the strait. Shandong conducted the transit while heading to train in the South China Sea, the Chinese navy said.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy described the training as “normal arrangements made in accordance with annual plans,” according to the Reuters report.

Undated photo pf carrier Shandong. PLA Photo

“In the future, we will continue to [organize] similar operations based on training needs,” the PLAN said.

Taiwan dispatched its own aircraft and ships to observe China’s actions, according to the wire service report.

Shandong, the PLAN’s second carrier, initiated sea trials in late May, USNI News previously reported.

Mustin made a transit through the Taiwan Strait in August, right after the destroyer had participated in an exercise with Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces, USNI News reported at the time.

The U.S. has consistently maintained a presence in the South China Sea this year, as tensions with China remained high through the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration’s continued criticism of Beijing.