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Blockading Taiwan would be a mistake for China: Ex-Pentagon official

07/08/2023 09:20 PM
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Tony Hu, former U.S. Department of Defense official talks to CNA in Taipei on Friday. CNA photo July 8, 2023
Tony Hu, former U.S. Department of Defense official talks to CNA in Taipei on Friday. CNA photo July 8, 2023

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) An attempt by China to take Taiwan through a blockade would be a mistake because it would allow American-led coalition forces to build up enough force to eventually foil the attempt, a former U.S. Department of Defense official said Friday.

Tony Hu (胡振東), the first Pentagon senior country director for Taiwan, said in an exclusive interview with CNA that the perception that China could cause Taiwan to collapse by blockading it for three weeks did not reflect reality.

"First, they can't blockade Taiwan for three weeks," he said in response to a question of how coalition forces would react if Chinese warships and planes surrounded Taiwan to prevent foreign military assistance.

If China conducted a blockade, without actually starting to shoot, it would still be an act of war under international law and "coalition forces could conduct anti-blockade operations by escorting supplies into Taiwan."

More to the point, he said, it would not make sense for Beijing to use the tactic if its goal is to take Taiwan.

"China hopes to take Taiwan in a quick victory," and "a blockade is not going to give them a quick victory," Hu said.

"If China does a blockade, it would give coalition forces so much time to build up and to move forces forward that the chance of them ever winning a conflict with Taiwan would be nil," he said.

Photo courtesy of Tony Hu July 8, 2023
Photo courtesy of Tony Hu July 8, 2023

Asked, meanwhile, how American and Taiwanese forces can effectively coordinate in preparation for a potential war in the Taiwan Strait, Hu said the current lack of joint military exercises between Taiwan and the United States is a "hindrance" for Taiwan.

He hoped that this will soon change, citing provisions passed by the U.S. Congress last year and in 2021 that called for Taiwan-U.S. joint military training.

Even without joint exercises, however, Taiwan's military is moving in the right direction by pursuing a joint C4ISR platform that is also used by the U.S. military, which would improve the interoperability between the two forces and facilitate joint training, Hu said.

Hu was also asked how to counter China's "gray zone" activities, an extension of Chinese military short of outright military engagement that includes Chinese maritime militias harassing Japan's Coast Guard and chasing Filipino fishing boats away from their fishing grounds.

He called for the free world to define who should be considered "combatants" and who should be considered "non-combatants," a line that China has deliberately blurred, so as to more effectively counter "gray zone" activities.

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For instance, Hu said, entities operating under the command of a semi-military organization such as the Chinese Coast Guard should be classified as combatants and responded to accordingly.

Similarly, he said, Chinese civilian hackers commissioned by the Chinese government to attack other countries' financial systems or internet infrastructure should be regarded and dealt with as combatants.

The world needs to redefine the gray areas that China has been exploiting to gain an advantage over the rest of the world, including the information warfare that it is waging at this very moment by planting disinformation in the media of other countries, he said.

(By Wu Sheng-hung and Sean Lin)


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