Low-intensity armed conflict possible across Taiwan Strait: analysts

07/21/2020 06:46 PM
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An anti-landing drill during Taiwan
An anti-landing drill during Taiwan's annual Han Kuang military exercises. CNA photo July 16, 2020

Taipei, July 21 (CNA) Security analysts in Taipei said Tuesday that while conventional war between Taiwan and China is unlikely anytime soon, low-intensity conflict is a possibility.

In light of the recent increase in military activities conducted near Taiwan by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, it will be advisable for Taiwan to be on the alert for low-intensity conflict, which can start with very little warning, retired Air Force Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Chang Yen-ting (張延廷) said at a security forum.

The hotspots for potential low-intensity armed conflict include the Dongsha Islands and Taiping Island in the South China Sea, and Wuqiu Island near Kinmen, which are all under Taiwan's jurisdiction, Chang said.

One common characteristic of those islands is that they are "easy to attack but difficult to defend," he said.

Meanwhile, Chen Ching-pu (陳勁甫), a Social and Policy Sciences professor at Yuan Ze University, warned that a military conflict between Taiwan and China is not a remote possibility, as they have been testing each other's red line on various issues.

The two sides should reduce hostilities and avoid such a crisis, as there will be no winners in a war, Chen said at the forum in Taipei.

According to former Taiwan National Security Bureau chief, Tsai De-sheng (蔡得勝), nationalistic sentiment is high in China due to the political developments in Hong Kong, the pressure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and worry that Taiwan might move toward independence.

Beijing might take a tougher stance in the region to divert domestic attention from those issues, which may lead to a more complicated regional situation, Tsai said at the forum.

On the possibility of military conflict between China and the United States, Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said accidental encounters are possible, despite the preventive mechanisms that are in place.

The two countries differ on many regional issues and have recently been conducting military maneuvers near the Korean Peninsula and in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, he said.

Although their restrained actions indicate that neither side wants a conflict, they are obviously both preparing for such an eventuality, Shu said.

In June, there were 18 instances of U.S. military ships or planes passing near Taiwan, while China military assets were spotted 13 times, according to the July 3 edition of the Defense Security, a bi-weekly magazine published by the government-funded INDSR.

Furthermore, Japanese media has reported that China is planning a large-scale beach landing exercise in the South China Sea in August, which will simulate a takeover of the Dongsha Islands.

(By Miao Zong-han and Emerson Lim)

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