"There is often an assumption of a geo-strategic character to American policy toward Taiwan, which isn't really there," Burghardt said. "I have never heard in a policy discussion, I have never seen in a policy document on Taiwan, any of those great chestnuts of Asian geo-strategy: 'unsinkable aircraft carrier,' 'first island chain'...It just ain't there."At the time I wondered Burghardt could possibly be thinking, because such commentary is quite common. For example, the recent Pentagon report on China's military noted on p18:
Figure 3. The First and Second Island Chains. PRC military theorists conceive of two island “chains” as forming a geographic basis for China’s maritime defensive perimeter.
The same point of "first and second island chains" is made in the figure on p23 (there's a paragraph of discussion on page 28). It is curious that Burghardt actually uses the phrase "first island chain" as if he knows it is a common term -- and, as someone alluded to at the Brookings conference I went to last year, the de facto containment strategy of the US is also based on the same assumptions of "first island chain" (Google "first island chain" and see all the different documents that turn up). Disturbingly, the PLA's "island chain" idea also harbors a ghost of the old Imperial Japanese Navy strategy of a defensive perimeter of islands.
However, perhaps Burghardt was discussing only classified policy documents that come into his purview as a ranking American official.
The Taipei Times had a front page feature on the report, with a graphic showing the gap in weapons between Taiwan and China. It observed:
"Beijing might use a variety of disruptive, punitive or lethal military actions in a limited campaign against Taiwan, likely in conjunction with overt and clandestine economic and political activities," the report says.The way things are going in both Taipei and Washington, no invasion will be necessary. China has powerful capabilities in its own territory, and is seeking to expand its ability to project power beyond. What does that tell you? Remember that second island chain....
"Such a campaign could include computer network or limited kinetic attacks against Taiwan's political, military and economic infrastructure to induce fear on Taiwan and degrade the populace's confidence in the Taiwan leadership. Similarly, PLA special operations forces that have infiltrated Taiwan could conduct attacks against infrastructure or leadership targets," it says.
The report says that limited short range missile strikes and precision strikes against air-defense systems, including air bases, radar sites, missiles, space assets and communications facilities, could support a campaign to degrade Taiwan's defenses, neutralize Taiwan's military and political leadership, and possibly break the Taiwan people's will to fight.
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