Taiwan blockade could prompt international action: U.S. Navy official

09/20/2022 01:42 PM
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Photo taken from the twitter account of U.S. 7th Fleet @US7thFleet
Photo taken from the twitter account of U.S. 7th Fleet @US7thFleet

Taipei, Sept. 20 (CNA) China's navy has the ability to blockade Taiwan, but doing so could prompt a coordinated response by the international community to intervene to resolve the crisis for the island, said U.S. Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, commander of the Seventh Fleet, in a recent interview.

"Clearly if they do something that's non-kinetic, which, you know, a blockade is less kinetic," he said, meaning it is not an all-out attack involving lethal force, "then that allows the international community to weigh in and to work together on how we're going to solve that challenge," Thomas told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in an interview published Monday.

While he could not predict whether China would launch a full-on attack on Taiwan or mount a blockade around it, it was his job to be ready for whatever they do, Thomas told the newspaper.

Following a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island on Aug. 2, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted several days of live-fire military drills in six maritime zones around Taiwan, during which 11 ballistic missiles were fired near or over the island.

The "irresponsible" act showed that China was pushing the boundaries further to "see what they can get away with," Thomas said.

After the drills concluded, China has made dozens of incursions near Taiwan in which PLA aircraft or ships crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which had served as a tacit boundary before August's military exercises.

China's recent actions around Taiwan were an extension of its "might makes right" mentality, Thomas said.

Asked by WSJ why Pelosi had taken a circuitous flight path when she visited Taiwan circumventing the South China Sea, Thomas said that it was meant to avoid provoking China, which had militarized artificial islands in the region, adding that the decision had been made "at high levels" amid warnings from Beijing that a visit by Pelosi could have consequences.

He highlighted the fact that China, which already has the world's largest navy by size, is building warships at a faster rate than the U.S., though the U.S., with more advanced warships and a larger aircraft carrier fleet, still has a qualitative edge.

The PLA has also worked to address a lack of coordination between different branches of its military, which had been viewed as one of its weaknesses, he said, pointing to the fact that aircraft belonging to China's air force were now flying across water, while in 2018 only aircraft in its navy undertook such flights.

(By Sean Lin)

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