What would a “Soft Invasion” of Taiwan look like?


Matters are getting more grave regarding China’s intent towards Taiwan.  Before the back benchers start bellowing that Taiwan has nothing to do with America, oh yes it does.  To make any move on Taiwan, China will have to strike Japanese, Filipino, and American sovereign territory.  This means that Americans will die when China moves and mutual defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines will be invoked.  U.S. Law states an intent to defend Taiwan from aggression or coercion.  The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and additional language from the 2023 and 2024 National Defense Authorization Act are replete with passages directing a closer military involvement and support for Taiwan to build deterrence capacity against China.

Yes, the Southern Border must be immediately secured, Fentanyl stopped, and Chinese Special Operators should be rounded up as the first and highest priority.  But the reality is that regardless of who is sitting in the White House, a Chinese move on Taiwan will trigger American involvement.  This is not mutually exclusive to the behavior of a “Big Guy” who has taken direct bribes from China along with his son.  Defending Taiwan and taking bribes simultaneously can occur.  We’ll have to deal with this malfeasance in the U.S. House and as soon as possible after the American election in November of this year.

Kinmen and Matsu

There are two small island groupings on the front line for Taiwan; Kinmen and Matsu.  They also comprise two of the 22 Counties in Taiwan.  Kinmen is the closest to Communist China with only about one mile separating the smallest islet from Communist China. Matsu is an archipelago of several islands, known as Lienchiang County with the closest island about six miles from the mainland.  These two island groupings are where President Eisenhower drew the line with the Chinese Communist Party in the 1950s with the implication that America would use nuclear weapons if the Chinese attempted to seize them.  There were two Straits Crisis, 1954/55 and 1958.  The 1958 ended when Taiwanese fighters achieved approximately 35 shootdowns of People’s Liberation Army Air Force fighters with the loss of four aircraft.  This included the first use of the famous Sidewinder air to air missile.  To this day the islands have large artillery pieces in protected positions ready to bombard the mainland during a conflict.

Kinmen is the closest and most vulnerable of the two island groupings.  The new air traffic procedures invoked by China after the elections in Taiwan in January 2024 push Chinese air traffic closer to Taiwan proper which can possibly cause problems and loss of reaction time for Taiwan military re-enforcements.  The very short water gap can allow a no notice, high speed boat assault along with a Chinese airliner, filled with special operators, declaring an “in-flight emergency” to land and seize the Kinmen airport.  An incident just occurred between Chinese fishermen illegally fishing inside Taiwanese territorial waters at Kinmen with two Chinese drowning after falling off their boat.  The tense situation is still evolving, China’s use of an event like this as a pretext to display faux outrage and conduct a landing on Kinmen is possible.  U.S. Special Forces are now permanently based on Taiwan with some forward on Kinmen.

 Seizing Suao Naval Base

When a landing on Taiwan is visualized, often the beaches on the west coast of Taiwan, facing China are presumed to be the likely locations.  The West Coast of Taiwan contains a relatively

flat coastal plain that is only about 10 to 20 miles wide until the mountains of central and eastern Taiwan are reached.  This thin and long western coastal plain contains most of Taiwan’s 24 million population and the prized plants of the TSMC corporation, which provides the preponderance of the world’s demands for computer chips.  There are a couple of problems with landing on this thin coastal strip.  The landing means the chip plants would immediately come under fire from combat operations.  In addition, once ashore, the hills and mountains are where much of the Taiwan military is held in bunkered positions, to come rolling out to meet and defeat the early stages of any landing or airborne assault.

However, an alternative landing point may be on the upper end of the island on the Pacific side.  This is in Yilan County and has the major Taiwan Naval Base at Suao.  A landing here might be a bit of a surprise with the expectation of a landing on the coast facing China.  The objective might not be to take the whole island, but to seize just a small portion of the island and continue to re-enforce this initial landing.  Yilan is a short distance, through the hills to Taipei.  The Chinese foothold could be used as a threat to take the whole island if the government does not capitulate which would spare the TSMC chip plants and their workforce.  Suao also provides immediate access to the drop offs of the deeper waters of the Pacific Ocean which is something China does not have now.  Currently, Chinese submarines have to transit through the relatively shallow coastal areas of China and the South China Seas before they can leverage the deeper waters of the broader Pacific Ocean.

Landing on the small Philippine Island chain between Taiwan and the Main Philippine Islands

The U.S., Philippine exercises of Balikatan 2023 provided the opportunity for the announcement of four new base camps in the Northern Philippines for American military as well as other Allied countries.  The gap between these bases and Taiwan is a little over 200 miles, close enough so that American missile units can launch long range missiles to support the defense of Taiwan.  This announcement and initial occupation of these new camps is expanding to include airfields and naval installations.  Approximately halfway across this gap from the Philippines to Taiwan is the small Filipino island grouping called the Basco Islands.  US HIMARS and other Missile Units have been present on these islands.  Control of these islands endanger the Chinese submarines attempting transit to the broader and deeper Pacific Ocean.

A Chinese raid to seize the Basco Island grouping could minimize and constrain the initial phases of conflict with the US and could possibly be used to negotiate a withdrawal of US support for Taiwan.  The US base camps on Basco and Northern Luzon are still in their nascent stages of preparedness, so an early assault by China might catch these bases unprepared to fully launch missile attacks on invading Chinese forces.

The displeasure of the CCP with the outcome of the January elections in Taiwan is noticeable.  There is a tight time window to have some form of a landing and/or seizure of key terrain on the perimeter or small sections of Taiwan proper before the tropical storm season begins in May 2024.  The Chinese are eager to demonstrate some success before the storm season begins.  The storm season normally goes through October, but the Chinese are keen on avoiding the biggest hurricane of them all, Hurricane Trump in November.

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