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DEFENSE/Taiwan 'ready' amid warnings of Chinese civilian vessel threat: Expert

05/29/2024 01:09 PM
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The Navy's fast attack boats. CNA file photo
The Navy's fast attack boats. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 29 (CNA) China is preparing an armada of ferries and civilian vessels to invade Taiwan, foreign experts have warned, but a Taiwan defense expert said the country has contingencies ready to handle the threat.

In a May 26 report in the Daily Telegraph, experts said the People's Liberation Army (PLA) lacks the numbers of amphibious landing craft needed to launch a full scale invasion of Taiwan, but it could bridge the gap with civilian vessels, including "gigantic roll-on, roll-off ferries that can each carry hundreds of armored vehicles."

China's civilian vessels could "dramatically increase the tonnage of military material that can be moved by its existing military amphibious assault craft," Tom Shugart, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security, told the newspaper.

That could give it "capacity to transport about 300,000 troops and their vehicles across the Taiwan Strait in about 10 days," Shugart was quoted as saying.

Chieh Chung (揭仲), a researcher at the Taipei-based Association of Strategic Foresight, agreed that the PLA lacks military vessels to transport military assets and has regularly included large-sized roll-on, roll-off ferries in military exercises over the past four years.

He said each 36,000-ton ro-ro vessel can transport the troops of an estimated four PLA combined arms battalions at a time, meaning two ro-ro ships could transport the troops of a whole PLA combined arms brigade, which generally involves thousands of soldiers.

Despite their large transport capacity, however, these civilian vessels are not designed to transport military assets such as military landing vessels because they need docking facilities when uploading and unloading, Chieh said.

In the event of an armed invasion of Taiwan, therefore, the first wave of PLA troops could only use military landing ships, military helicopters and military transport aircraft to land in Taiwan, according to Chieh.

Only after the first wave of PLA troops has successfully landed in Taiwan and constructed unloading facilities could these civilian vessels start transporting more troops to Taiwan, Chieh said.

Even when that happens, Taiwan's existing long-range anti-ship missile systems and naval mines as well as suicide speedboats would be sufficient to destroy these relatively slow-moving civilian transport ships, he said.

CNA also asked the Ministry of National Defense (MND) about the potential threat.

It said it closely monitors Chinese activities around Taiwan's airspace and sea, including military-civilian coordinated landing operations during PLA exercises and the PLA's requisition of civilian roll-on roll-off vessels.

The MND continues to gather related information and intelligence on the PLA's "informal" landing and transportation capacities, and that such tactics are carefully evaluated and prepared, it said, without elaborating.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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