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Video Above:Could the U.S. Stop China from Invading Taiwan?

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Conducting multi-domain air attack drills from two aircraft carriers in the areas of Taiwan and the South China Sea represents an effort on the part of the People’s Liberation Army - Navy to demonstrate an ability to project power beyond its shores and annex Taiwan.

The Chinese government-backed Global Times newspaper specifically cites the PLAN’s forward carrier presence showing it could fend off US and Japanese forces defending Taiwan.

“Chinese military observers said the West Pacific is also an important potential battlefield if foreign forces like the US and Japan interfere in the Taiwan question, as Chinese aircraft carriers could take positions here and fend off foreign forces, while also surrounding the island of Taiwan from its east,” the paper states.

US & Japanese Intervention 

Could Chinese carriers in the Taiwan strait or in striking distance of Japan successfully defend Taiwan from US and Japanese attack? Certainly a question including a number of variables. Chinese carriers and amphibs might be quite successful in any amphibious assault to take over Taiwan, if US and Japanese forces could not get there in time or simply were not close enough to intervene in an impactful way.

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. PLA Photo

However, should Japanese, South Korean or US forces have sufficient indications of an imminent invasion or obtain crucial intelligence information, US Navy and Japanese assets could be in close enough proximity to challenge or stop a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. 

This is likely a key reason why US Pacific Command operates a large number of ships and assets in the region and regularly conducts forward operations such as training, combat preparation drills or carrier aircraft launch operations. Forward presence could be the deciding factor in any kind of scenario involving attack.

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Despite the claim by the Chinese paper that its carriers could prevent successful US and Japanese intervention regarding Taiwan, there are several key reasons why PLA forces might have trouble actually succeeding in taking over Taiwan. 

Air Superiority 

First, attacking Chinese forces would likely have a very difficult time establishing air superiority in support of an amphibious assault should US carrier-launched F-35Cs and amphib-launched F-35Bs be within range of attack.

U.S. Air Force F-35B

F-35B Ship Trials

Chinese J-15s or even some of its small number of J-20s would likely have trouble. Without clear air supremacy, an amphibious force would be extremely vulnerable to attack from US or Japanese 5th-generation aircraft such as F-35s.

Virginia-class Attack Submarines 

Another key variable likely to make a Chinese move on Taiwan very difficult is the potential presence of US submarines. Virginia-class attack submarines are increasingly engineered with advanced sonar and quieting technologies such that they can approach high risk areas less likely to be available to more easily detected surface ships. 

Video Above: China, Taiwan & US War - Virginia-Class Attack Submarines Save Taiwan?

Hidden submarines can therefore perform clandestine reconnaissance missions in high-risk coastal areas. Should they remain undetected, US Navy attack submarines could succeed in attacking, disrupting or even destroying attacking Chinese ships traveling to Taiwan.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization