The Telegraph reported that China has ramped up pressure on Taiwan with videos of a simulated major attack on the Island and an alleged “spying confession” of a Taiwanese businessman. Last Week during Taiwan’s National Day, President Tsai Ing-wen of the 24 million island nation had the temerity to “urge the Chinese Communist Party to engage in meaningful dialogue” on an equal basis. China has been making several demonstrations of force with its air force “crossing the Taiwan Straits” middle line. China has rejected any negotiations with Ms. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government was elected in 2016.
China is even peevish toward the proposal of the Kuomintang opposition party the KMT in Taiwan that has proposed “independence” and renewal of relations with the US. The semi-official Global Post of the Chinese Communist Party noted:
“Taiwan’s “Legislative Yuan” on Tuesday passed two proposals from the KMT, which are to “request the US to help confront the CPC,” and “for the Taiwan Island and the US to resume diplomatic ties,” Taiwan local media reported. The KMT also called on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to “work actively” on these two issues.
Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, responded by saying that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and both sides of the Taiwan Strait belonging to the same China is an unalterable historical and legal fact”.
The Trump Administration further enraged the CCP by sending US Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar, followed by Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment to Taiwan. The RAND Corporation’s Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation and an expert in the region, said the approach went hand in hand with a strategy being referred to in the Pentagon as Fortress Taiwan.
He told Express.co.uk: “For decades, the US has sought to bolster Taiwan’s defensive capabilities to prevent China from being able to successfully launch an amphibious invasion against the island, or to otherwise conduct military operations meant to harm it (such as a blockade or missile strikes)”. The question Grossman suggests is the “right mix. His suggestions; sea mines and anti-ship missiles.
But Dr. Stephen Bryen, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense during the Reagan Era is someone who knows Taiwan’s has a better idea. In a Newsweek article he wrote of a suggestion he made at a lecture at Taiwan’s National Defense University in 2018: “I proposed having a standby force of F-35’s in the U.S. that either would belong to Taiwan or be leased to Taiwan. That force would be available to respond to any retaliation by mainland China”. Bryen’s Newsweek article was immediately republished in Taiwan news outlets causing a flurry of attention.
Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant and Jerry Gordon brought back Dr. Bryen to discuss his proposals for Taiwan and his views on the current conflict in the South Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia with regional ramifications involving Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Iran.
The following are takeaways from the interview with Dr. Stephen Bryen.
On deterrent value of US leasing F-35 to Taiwan.
China has engaged in significant exercises on the mainland aimed at a possible invasion. Heretofore, the US has refused to sell Taiwan the F-35 stealth aircraft. Bryen proposes to lease upwards of 100 of the F-35 B versions which has STOL – short takeoff and landing capabilities. This would avoid a possible Chinese missile pre-emptive attack on Taiwan’s airfields in the opening phases of a possible invasion. China’s formidable air fleet is composed of the J-10, J-11, J-20 and copy of the Russian SU-35. Taiwanese pilots would be trained in the US and the planes re-tailed with Taiwanese insignia kept here. They could be flown on an emergency basis and refueled mid-flight to arrive within hours of an alert. The benefits of Bryen’s approach are it avoids a $10 Billion sale and years for delivery; US direct involvement which might worsen China relations; and it maintains stability and peace in the region. It is modeled on the historic FDR- Churchill 1940 US Lend Lease program with Great Britain that sent 50 overage US destroyers, other naval assets and aircraft to fight the Nazi Submarine Wolf Packs attacking convoys at a critical moment in WWII, when the US was allegedly neutral.
US has Complicated Relationship with Taiwan.
Kissinger and Nixon in 1972 abandoned relations with Taiwan to appease Communist China. US military bases, missions and troops were pulled out of Taiwan, Effectively, as Bryen said, the US “derecognized” Taiwan to enter relations with mainland China. In 1979, US Congress, passed the Taiwan Relations Act, but successive Administrations hesitated to commit military aid. Taiwan has only a trade mission in Washington and no military mission. When a missile crisis occurred in 1996, Bryen noted that it took the US two weeks to place an Aircraft Carrier battle group in position to deter Chinese action against Taiwan.
China’s View of Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Historically, China views Taiwan as an integral part of China. China’s claims of the man-made islands in the South China Sea are illegal under a ruling by the Internal Court of Claims. China, according to Bryen has also claimed Okinawa and the Ryukyus Islands of Japan. Bryen considers Taiwan worthy of protection as democratic and economic powerhouse in the region. The opposition Kuomintang Party of Taiwan Bryen cited had previously proposed amalgamation with China However, following the enactment of Chinese National Security laws and protests in Hong Kong, it has changed its position towards independence for Taiwan, further exacerbating relations with Communist China.
The US QUAD Proposal has a Problem Japan, and it does not include Taiwan.
The Trump Administration is pursuing a NATO like arrangement in the Indo Pacific region, the QUAD which would include Australian, India, the US and Japan. Bryen questions why this alleged “coalition of the willing” would leave out Taiwan. Further, it is complicated by the anti-militarism policies of Japan, made vulnerable by China’s trade entre. That Bryen believes Secretary Pompeo recognizes Japan’s deficiencies and is simply seeking improvement of its military capabilities. Bryen’s assessment is that Japan’s Self Defense Force Air Force with its F-35Bs and Navy, especially its submarine force, are formidable. Its Army is less capable. That is complicated by toxic relations with South Korea. Australia, he considers a strong partner.
Taiwan needs a Military Treaty with the US eliminating restrictions.
Bryen, views as problematic proposals to fortify Taiwan through massive military purchases. It cannot be defended against a formidable power like China. Instead, he believes that a US needs to conclude a military treaty with Taiwan to survive a monumental assault by China. He noted that President H.W. Bush in 1991 authorized sales of the F-16A. That is being upgraded now and Taiwan is buying 60 advanced F-16Vs. He gave the example of how US restrictions on the US supplied engines for the Taiwan indigenous FCK-1 fighter gave it what he deemed “short legs” preventing it from reaching China.
Taiwan’s US supplied Air Defense System is vulnerable to drone attack.
Taiwan has the latest version of the Patriot air defense system –the PAC-3. It has a $680 million upgrade contract for the $6.85 billion program. However, the PAC-3 ability to defend against China’s drones is not good. Taiwan has MANPADS – shoulder fired anti-aircraft weapons; Taiwan also has a home grown air defense system based on the Nike Hercules and still fields Improved Hawk Missiles. Air defense against China’s multiple threat is a real challenge for Taiwan.
On the War in the South Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Bryen noted that Russia is supplying weapons to both Azerbaijan and Armenia in the two-week-old conflict. Azerbaijan has Turkish, Israeli and Byelorussian equipment in its arsenal. Bryen noted the Turkish Bayraktar TV2 drones were used effectively in Azerbaijani attacks. Confirmed report suggest that Turkey has positioned 2 to 4 F-16s in Azerbaijan and one may have shot down an Armenian Sukhoi 25. He drew attention to a recent Israel High court ruling in a case brought by a peace group that arms sales to Azerbaijan can continue.
Relations between Azerbaijan and Israel are friendly. Moreover, the Shia Muslim country has a tolerant attitude to both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish communities who have lived there for hundreds of years.
Bryen noted that Azerbaijan has a population of 10.5 million but in adjacent Iran, which supports Armenia in the conflict there are as many as 15 Million Azeris. The Iranian regime worries the Azeris could be an internal threat.
Difficulty of settling the dispute over the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
The Nagorno Karabakh Republic with its own leader and has a population of 150,000, 85% of which are Armenians. They have been unable to reach settlement with Azerbaijan in 25 years regarding compensation for refugees and territory. Russia has held consultations with both sides resulting in a failed cease fire. Bryen believes that what Moscow wants to do is restart the Madrid Process that would include the UK, EU, Russia, and the US. As it now stands fighting has renewed after a Russia arranged cease fire.