Ian Easton of the Project 2049 Institute recently asserted that “contrary to reports, Taiwan has the capacity to deny air superiority to China, and it is likely to maintain this capability well into the future.” That may be so, but in any contingency, that real issue would be the U.S. response. Washington’s “abandonment” of Taiwan would have devastating consequences for its reputation as an alliance partner, and so would force it to come to the island’s defense. In doing so, the U.S. military would find itself within range of Chinese systems that are specifically developed to deny this.
A direct hit on a U.S. aircraft carrier by China’s DF-21D ASBM would take the situation to the next level, while any attack on U.S. bases in Japan would bring Tokyo into the war. What happened after that would depend on the appetite of both sides for ongoing conventional conflict—or whether leaders in either country would feel compelled to push the button.
James Hardy is the Asia-Pacific Editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of IHS.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Department of Defense/CC by-nc-nd 2.0