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Preparedness needed to deter China from blockading Taiwan: Pottinger

06/14/2024 08:57 PM
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Former United States Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger (front, center) and Ivan Kanapathy (left), who co-wrote "The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan," are received by President Lai Ching-te in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo June 14, 2024
Former United States Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger (front, center) and Ivan Kanapathy (left), who co-wrote "The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan," are received by President Lai Ching-te in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo June 14, 2024

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) The better prepared Taiwan is to repel an invasion, the less likely China will pursue a full-blown, sustained blockade of Taiwan, former United States Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger argued Friday.

Blockades or quarantines are difficult to impose even for countries like China, which has a massive navy and coast guard fleet, Pottinger said at a press event in response to a CNA question about the likelihood of Chinese aggression coming in the form of a blockade.

If Taiwan managed to ration energy, have enough food to subsist, and run the blockade by operating a certain number of ships and flights in and out of the country, China's attempt to blockade the country would fail, said Pottinger, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

That would leave Beijing with two options -- to admit failure and retreat or to escalate the siege into a full-on invasion, he said.

The first option would "not be good" for Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平), while the second option would require China to be confident it could pull off a full-blown invasion of Taiwan, he said.

"Our contention is that if Taiwan, together with the United States, with help from Japan and Australia, if the picture is one of confident capability to repel an invasion, it becomes much less likely that Xi Jinping pursues military action short of an invasion," Pottinger said.

He was referring to his new book, "The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan," which he co-authored and edited.

The prospects of a Chinese blockade were raised in more than a theoretical sense in August 2022, when the People's Liberation Army staged nine days of military exercises in six maritime zones surrounding Taiwan.

Many described the maneuvers as a mock blockade of Taiwan in retaliation for then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the country a few days earlier.

It again held a quasi-blockade around Taiwan on May 23 to 24 in response to the inaugural speech of President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) on May 20, further suggesting the possibility.

Also at Friday's event, Ivan Kanapathy, who co-authored the book, expounded on why he suggested a day earlier at another event that Taiwan move away from its current efforts to build more indigenous defense submarines (IDS).

The submarines that Taiwan plans to build are not nuclear submarines like the ones that the U.S. has, which are the "stealthiest and quietest," and are therefore vulnerable because they are likely to be "noisy," said Kanapathy, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

There is also a survivability issue associated with Taiwan's less-than-ideal position due to its proximity to China, which means Taiwan's submarines might not even get a chance to leave their homeport or safely return there to reload, Kanapathy said.

By contrast, U.S. subs coming to Taiwan's aid in a conflict would be arriving from Guam, Hawaii, or other ports of call instead of being moored in Taiwan, which is "not a great place to be in wartime," he said.

(By Sean Lin)

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