BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
- China conducts series of aggressive SORTIES into Taiwanese airspace since Feb.
- China blames US for COVID-19 outbreak (they may be technically correct: it may have been removed by Chinese breaches into NIH databases at University of North Carolina as I warned the DoD about at the start of the year).
- China launches its largest war-game exercise in the South China Sea starting a couple of weeks back.
- Chinese Naval forces fortify their manmade islands in the South China, putting up two “research stations” there while sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat.
- China conducts intensive aerial recon of southern Taiwan, the most likely (I believe) point of any Chinese invasion of the island.
- Chinese Type 095 amphibious ship catches fire in port. The fire is contained with superficial damage to the craft. Repairs underway.
- China keeps its next launch of the Beidou satellite on schedule, nearing the completion of its rival to the American GPS.
- USS Ronald Reagan believed to be inoperable in Japan due to COVID-19 outbreak. Its sister ship, another super carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, is limping away from the region under a skeleton crew due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
- China launches the Liaoning and four escorts, sails it unannounced through the Strait of Miyako, beyond Okinawa and turns south. Destination unknown. The Liaoning is now the only operational flattop in the Pacific at this time. USPACOM awaits the arrival of another flattop (possibly the Truman from the Persian Gulf?)
- US scrambles what little forces it can in the region to assemble an elephant walk of B-52s in Guam, more than 2,000 miles from China.
- Chinese now conducting massive nuclear tests.
Reality presents opportunity., Under “normal” circumstances, China would not dare attack the US or its allies in-region. These are not normal circumstances. The prognosis for the United States, even if its economy is reopened–however partially–soon is bleak. Our rivals in China understand the key strength and weakness of the United States is its economy. Would the Washington be willing to risk having to trade Los Angeles for Taipei–particularly under economic duress? Perhaps this is all just China attempting to appear strong when it is weak. Perhaps there is something more.
I recommend Trump not wait the Truman to transit over to the Pacific. It is essential that he do more than elephant walk some bombers on a runway in Guam. Maneuvering submarines at far greater levels than what they’re at is key. Should China make a go of it for Taiwan, their force is already partly assembled in the SCS. I’d be curious to know about troop movements to and around Fujian. America is out-of-position and weak right now. Might be time for Beijing to try and drop the hammer (and sickle) on its regional foes.
In January of this year, US Navy submarines were equipped with new tactical nuclear weapons. We may have to use these weapons against a sudden Chinese invasion into Taiwan. Chinese military forces have been moving around en masse on the mainland since the outbreak, what with the country being placed under “war-time control” as I reported here at the start of February.
Suppose, though, those controls were not merely imposed to fight the coronavirus or to quell what was at that point the ongoing Hong Kong protests? What if it was designed to lull American and Western intelligence agencies into a false sense of security?
For example, we have long suspected that any Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be done under the guise of a military exercise, such as the ones now being conducted in the South China Sea. It could also be that a surge of Chinese forces into Fujian, which is an essential port for any invasion of Taiwan to be conducted, has occurred under the guise of moving Chinese troops around the contain the COVID-19 outbreak in China.
Southern Taiwan is the most likely route of any Chinese attack on Taiwan. Just as the Ming Dynasty General Koxinga led his rebel forces to war against the Dutch East India Company which had settled southern Taiwan, I believe the Chinese today may seek to replicate Koxinga’s invasion route. Leaked photos indicate that the Chinese have designs on southern Taiwan being a pivotal place where any future invasion will occur. And just as Koxinga and Mao in the 1950s, a Chinese invasion force heading to Taiwan will have to take the smaller Penghu and Kinmen Islands separating Taiwan from mainland China in the narrow Taiwan Strait.
A rapid Chinese movement may be at hand, especially as there are no American aircraft carriers available. American policymakers must thus determine how to respond to potential Chinese aggression in the very near future. They must also balance their inclination to act in defense of Taiwan with what will likely be a very low threshold for American retaliation against China if any military action to liberate Taiwan from a Chinese invasion will involve American boots on the ground (which it will).
As one retired Taiwanese official told me a few years back in Washington, D.C.: Taiwan’s leadership has always planned that American forces would come to their rescue in the event of a Chinese invasion of their besieged island. Given the political situation here in the United States and the deteriorating economic condition of the country, how likely is it that Americans would support a sustained, direct defense of Taiwan?
We have made necessary commitments to Taiwan but have consistently failed to fully meet our obligations. For their part, Taiwan has also not crafted a totally competent force. Since ending conscription, the Taiwanese military is relatively weak. It might be able to hold out against a Chinese initial invasion, but a second or third wave remains questionable. And what costs will America have to pay in order to rollback a Chinese intervention on Taiwan?
Keep this report in mind as the summer unfolds. Friends, we are on notice but we have not noticed. The lights are flashing red and it remains to be seen if Washington is paying attention. We saw this before on 9/11. Our intelligence services had tracked elements of the 9/11 plot. They had enough information gathered at the agency-level to be aware that something horrible was afoot. They couldn’t piece it together because they didn’t know how the individual pieces fit together to form the wider intelligence mosaic. Biological warfare, economic warfare, space and cyberspace, lawfare, all of these things are at play–and have been–in the Indo-Pacific for a while now. This could be the “assassin’s mace” strategy that the Chinese have been blathering about for years at play. In which case, the United States is about to get clobbered hard. Or, at least, a longtime American ally is (and once Taiwan falls, Japan will be in China’s crosshairs).