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Document created: 1 September 05
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2005

Countering a Strategic Gambit

Keeping US Airpower Employable in a China-Taiwan Conflict

Col Lawrence M. Martin Jr., USAF

Editorial Abstract: The US ability to provide airpower to the Taiwan Strait area influences strategic decisions and discourages potential conflict. The author suggests that the United States use all instruments of national power in a Sun Tzu–like strategy to ensure its continued access to regional bases. Such a strategy should forestall conflict; failing that, US airpower would be positioned to help achieve desirable outcomes in case of conflict.

The Taiwan issue remains a western Pacific flashpoint. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims complete sovereignty over Taiwan and has promised to use force if peaceful means fail to keep Taiwan from pursuing independence. Taiwan, meanwhile, has witnessed a significant growth of proindependence forces in the last few years. The current Taiwanese ruling party’s openly proindependence stance has challenged the PRC. Though cross-strait tensions have waxed and waned, the potential for conflict remains high. The United States has been involved in this situation since it began over 50 years ago and remains committed to both Taiwan’s defense and finding a peaceful solution within the bounds of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

By all measures, the PRC wishes to take Taiwan whole and intact. To this end, it will follow Sun Tzu’s teachings to win without fighting, bringing every element of national power into full play. Chinese leaders see that a possible US intervention in a Taiwan Strait conflict will rely on a joint force dependent on naval power and airpower. In essence, the PRC has begun to shape the potential western Pacific battlespace using military, economic, and diplomatic means.1 Though the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) growing strength has captured many analysts’ attention, the force will remain, at best, a regional power for the foreseeable future. In fact, its growing power could be more of a ruse than a main threat in this situation. The PLA’s growing power should be neither under-estimated nor ignored by US policy makers. Still, for at least the near term, China will compensate for its limited military strength by pursuing a strategy using its growing economic power and careful diplomatic pressure on western Pacific nations to limit the United States’ ability to deploy and employ airpower to defend Taiwan. Like Sun Tzu’s axiom, the PRC’s asymmetric gambit could subdue American airpower without fighting, crippling possible Taiwan strategies.2 Ironically, the United States has seen a growing PRC economy and its recent, more kindly -diplomacy as positive and hopeful leading indicators of further PRC market and democratic reforms. Hence, any credible, effective US response to these PRC initiatives must maintain the current cordial relationship with -Beijing and encourage further PRC market reforms and more transparent governance while retaining military options guaranteeing Taiwan’s already existing market economy and robust democracy.

The Ruse:
The Growing PLA

As highlighted by the 2004 Pentagon report “on the current and future military strategy of the People’s Republic of China,”3 American policy makers have focused on the PLA’s growth. Certainly, the PRC military options (especially as they relate to a potential Taiwan Strait confrontation) have grown in recent years with vast improvements in its military power. As the PRC applies its expanding economic power to military improvements, the threat occurs when the immature capabilities of Chinese armed forces combine with other elements of national power to secure regional dominance. While the world has been transfixed on Chinese military growth, the PRC’s diplomatic and economic power has shaped the western Pacific area.

The nation’s air forces are in the midst of a transition from large, 1960s-technology-based units to smaller, more modern, and capable forces.4 Though the capabilities of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Naval Air Force (PLANAF) have traditionally centered on PRC territorial air defense, its acquisition and development programs have turned towards creating a power-projection force. New J-10 (Jian-10), J-11 (Jian-11/Su-27SK), and Su-30MKK (Su-27 two-seat variant) fighters each have increased range and an improved ability to carry air-to-surface weapons. To further improve its capabilities, the PRC has moved to acquire force-multiplying platforms for airborne early warning and control and aerial refueling, while continuing a search for strategic-airlift platforms and demonstrating an interest in unmanned aerial vehicles.5 All told, the PLAAF and PLANAF have revetments for approximately 1,100 aircraft within 325 nautical miles (nm) of Taiwan, though perhaps only 20 percent of its nearly 3,600 aircraft have the range to operate from these fields over Taiwan.6

The PLA Navy (PLAN) has also improved its capabilities since the late 1990s. It continues to expand a submarine force of over 60 boats, built originally around Soviet-era craft but increasingly centered on indigenously built conventional and nuclear boats. The PLAN has modernized its surface fleet by acquiring Soviet-designed Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers for enhanced antiship power, while also building its own Luhai-class destroyers to provide an improved anti-air-warfare capability. Its large frigate- and patrol-craft fleet possesses a formidable ability to engage -enemy forces using antisurface missiles like the Russian-built Moskit and Styx and French-built Exocet missiles.7

Significantly, the PLAN possesses only a rudimentary capability to conduct large-scale assault operations across the Taiwan Strait. The PLAN has amphibious assault ships capable of transporting its two marine brigades and their equipment, around 12,000 troops, but little more. Though the PLA has three airborne divisions of about 10,000 soldiers each, the PLAAF does not have sufficient airlift capability to deploy the force.8 Most assessments give the Chinese little chance of establishing the necessary sea control, air superiority, and favorable ground-force ratio required to complete a successful amphibious landing to reunify Taiwan.9

The PRC’s large ballistic-missile force, the Second Artillery, provides the most credible offensive capability to threaten Taiwan. With over 500 short-range ballistic missiles based in the Nanjing Military Region across the strait from Taiwan, the PRC has been forecast to expand its arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) by 60–70 per year.10 The Second Artillery retains the best capability for the PRC to strike such key targets in Taiwan as airfields; air-defense sites; naval bases; and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) infrastructure with little or no advance warning.

Using these forces, the PRC has several difficult options to threaten Taiwan militarily. Though mounting a “traditional” full-scale amphibious invasion remains beyond the PLA’s grasp, the PRC could attempt to coerce the Taiwanese people using missile and air attacks designed to undermine Republic of China (ROC) leadership and force the Taiwanese into reunification negotiations.11 Another scenario might include a surprise assault by the PRC forces in a multidimensional coup de main, combining early surgical nuclear, -chemical, air-assault, missile, and air attacks with follow-on amphibious assaults designed to decapitate the ROC leadership while confusing and demoralizing its military forces and population.12 A third scenario considers an incremental PRC approach involving a phased invasion, whereby the PRC would first seize Kinmen (Quemoy) and other islands close to the Chinese mainland, moving then to the P’eng-hu Islands next to Taiwan before finally conducting a larger assault on Taiwan proper.13

Though impressive, the PLA’s military buildup by itself does not give the PRC a credible capacity to force the resolution of a Taiwan conflict by military means alone. Each of the scenarios described above remains more a description of the possible, as opposed to the probable. The PRC can enhance its options and the effectiveness of its immature military by neutralizing the target (American airpower) without fighting.

The Target:
Requirements for American Airpower Deployment and Employment

Should the United States be required to intervene in Taiwan militarily, its primary mission can be expected to match its national interest—that is, allowing a peaceful resolution of the situation. These efforts would most likely involve isolating Taiwan from follow-on PRC attacks and then either assisting the ROC military as it recovers from the attack or defeating PRC forces already lodged on the island. The responsibility to isolate and secure the island from further PRC threats will fall to US naval and air forces. American forces would probably not attack the PRC forces on the mainland, except as required to secure their own safety from future attack.14 Historically, US military forces have intervened in just this fashion to restrain threatening PRC actions, beginning in 1950, occurring again in 1958, and most recently in 1995–96.15 In each of these cases, the American president chose to send US Navy aircraft-carrier battle groups to calm the waters between Taiwan and the PRC, separating the two sides to allow a peaceful resolution.

For the defense of Taiwan, its military retains a qualitative edge on the PLA in many areas, especially in naval and air forces, but in a long campaign without outside intervention, the PLA could overwhelm the relatively small ROC forces. The ROC has not yet developed the training and doctrine employed by the United States and its coalition partners to allow a smaller, qualitatively superior force to prevail over a larger force, especially in the area of joint, offensive operations. Its armycentric military has not moved beyond its traditional counterlanding mission to thwart the PRC advances in its naval, air, or missile forces.16

America’s coercive capability in a potential PRC-Taiwan conflict depends on its ability to deploy and employ both naval and air forces for sustained operations in the skies and waters over and around Taiwan. Those deployments will depend on access to regional bases, its ability to deploy and then sustain the force at these bases, and the willingness (or unwillingness) of America’s regional allies to support and assist an intervention. Deployments could be limited by American commitments to other theaters, as the United States must weigh its ability to maintain forces to other theaters while mounting a credible deterrent to aggressive PRC actions.

The foundation of American support for Taiwan remains its willingness and ability to deploy credible forces in a timely manner as situations worsen in the western Pacific. Though the United States possesses the world’s most capable force-projection capability, that capability does have limits, especially in East Asia. Carrier battle groups require from three to 16 days to respond to any Pacific crisis; however, their aviation assets possess limited capabilities to sustain combat operations.17 With few nearby airfields, the United States relied heavily on US naval aviation forces to sustain Operation Enduring Freedom. Carrier-based aircraft flew demanding sorties, often seven to 10 hours long, more than 400 nm from their strike group. To execute the long-range, long-duration missions, naval-strike aircraft depended on US Air Force tanker and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to act as force multipliers.18 Though US Navy/Marine Corps tactical-aviation assets flew about 75 percent of coalition sorties over Afghanistan, USAF heavy bombers delivered over 70 percent of the coalition’s munitions tonnage.19

Unlike Operations Desert Storm, Noble Anvil, and Iraqi Freedom, where US-led coalition aviation benefited from the presence of numerous airfields in relatively close proximity to the theater of operations, any potential western Pacific conflict will have to be fought at distances more like those flown in Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan. As a matter of perspective, for Enduring Freedom, naval aviation assets often flew sorties into Afghanistan of over 400 nm one way, while refueling tankers based in Qatar flew over 1,100 nm. Based at Diego Garcia, US heavy bombers traveled over 2,900 nm, each way. During Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, Kuwait-based coalition forces flew much shorter sorties. Each way, those based near Riyadh traveled about 540 nm and those in Qatar flew around 610 nm.

The most effective US naval and air response to a cross-strait threat would combine the Navy’s carrier battle group’s rapid-response and force-projection capability with the Air Force’s ability to dominate and sustain the fight, especially with its force-multiplying C4ISR, aerial-refueling, and strategic-airlift -assets. This joint-force synergy affords the US military the most credible, effective means to penetrate a battlespace close to the PRC’s mainland and prevail. While naval forces possess the inherent ability to deploy anywhere, they operate better when employed with US air forces that need fixed bases to operate. For operations in and around Taiwan, the United States would hope to use its bases on nearby Okinawa (probably Kadena AB, located approximately 350 nm from Taipei) and more distant Guam (probably Andersen AFB, located approximately 1,500 nm from Taipei) (see fig.).

Figure. Air distances from Taipei

Figure. Air distances from Taipei

Relying on just two facilities for USAF aviation assets would hamper US operations in support of Taiwan; American planners prefer more options. While most analysts would agree that US military forces would prevail in a conflict with PRC forces, the PRC could severely limit US options by keeping US forces away from the fight by denying them the use of nearby bases, cutting them off from getting in the game. Regional bases would also grant American decision makers more flexibility in the type of response they would consider to counter a PRC provocation. Given improvements in the PRC’s ISR capabilities, Chinese decision makers could decide to act when American carrier battle groups were occupied with other contingencies or simply deployed to other Pacific areas. The PRC could gain considerable freedom of action by moving against Taiwan when US carriers were 14–16 days away, vice just three and one-half days when they are deployed to areas around Japan. Using the air-and-space-expeditionary-force construct, increasingly effective USAF land-based air assets could close the window of vulnerability and narrow China’s freedom of action by deploying to the western Pacific before far-flung naval assets could sail for Taiwan.20 Losing the option to use multiple air bases in and around Taiwan would force US planners to rely more heavily on carrier-based assets, possibly limiting their availability for other contingencies.

The Real Threat:
PRC Economic and
Diplomatic Initiatives

The long-term PRC effort to shape the -battlespace for a potential Taiwan Strait conflict will depend on its diplomatic efforts reinforced by economic influence rather than the direct use of military capabilities. The PRC’s growing economy has increased its regional influence and fueled its military modernization. Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, the PRC has sustained gross-domestic-product growth rates of 7.5 percent (2001), 8.0 percent (2002), 9.1 percent (2003),21 and 9.5 percent in 2004,22 making it the world’s third largest trading economy behind the United States and Japan. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported in October 2004 that the PRC’s total trade volume would exceed 1.1 trillion US dollars (USD) for 2004, while it maintained a favorable trade balance of approximately 10 billion USD.23 As China increased its regional economic integration, several of its January 2005 top-10 monthly trading partners were important US partners and allies like Japan (third with over 14 billion USD in monthly trade), South Korea (fifth, over 7.7 billion USD), Singapore (seventh, over 2.2 billion USD), and Australia (ninth, 1.8 billion USD).24

The PRC’s growing regional influence has created a chilling effect on regional support for Taiwan’s independence movement. The PRC’s public-diplomacy theme has centered on being a good neighbor for regional nations (the “peaceful” rise) in the new millennium, though the PRC has also been a demanding neighbor. Throughout 2004, China’s leaders and diplomats secured statements from Pacific leaders (including several from Central and South America) reaffirming their belief in one China and their condemnation of any provocative Taiwanese moves towards separatism. Among these nations were several who could potentially provide air and logistics bases for US or US-led forces defending Taiwan, including Singapore,25 the Philippines,26 Vietnam,27 Australia,28 and New Zealand.29

Executing a broad campaign to isolate the Taiwanese separatist movement, the PRC countered every Pacific-nation meeting or communication with Taiwan with strong pressure for the third nation to affirm its commitment to a one-China policy while stating its opposition to Taiwanese independence. The PRC’s efforts range from benign communiqués directed towards former US enemies like Vietnam30 to strong open-press statements declaring that traditional American allies were not bound to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty.31 After PRC leaders met with Filipino leadership on bilateral trade, the Xinhua News Agency issued stock statements highlighting the Philippine government’s support for a one-China policy32 (air bases in Manila would be just 650 nm from Taipei).33 Though Singapore’s army has conducted regular bilateral training in Taiwan for years, the PRC turned its sights on the tiny island nation when its prime minister–elect visited Taiwan on a fact-finding trip in the summer of 2004. Singapore bowed to significant PRC pressure and strongly affirmed its adherence to a one-China policy and opposition to Taiwanese independence for disturbing East Asian stability.34 Understandably, Taiwan’s reaction to Singapore’s snub was loud and harsh.35 Singapore is located some 1,750 nm from Taipei and possesses a deepwater pier capable of berthing a US nuclear aircraft carrier.

Australia, a key US ally, has borne the brunt of Chinese efforts since the summer of 2004. The PRC moved to secure Australia’s acquiescence during August 2004 trade talks held in Beijing. During the talks, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer indicated Australia was not bound to defend Taiwan. Immediately, Australia’s prime minister assured the world that Australia would uphold its obligations under the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Treaty.36 Despite these assurances, the Australian government denied a request for a visit by a Taiwanese state minister just the next month, a strong indication of the importance Canberra places on not angering a prospective business partner in the PRC.37 In February 2005, Australia also indicated it would not oppose the proposed lifting of the European Union arms embargo on the PRC.38

In the PRC’s most assertive stance towards Australia, its director general for North American and Oceanic Affairs bluntly reminded Australia in March 2005 “to be careful” how it applies the ANZUS Treaty with respect to a potential PRC-US conflict over Taiwan. Australian prime minister John Howard, one of American president George Bush’s strongest allies, shaped a carefully nuanced response, hinting Australia would support the United States in a conflict over Taiwan but downplaying Australia’s responsibility by asserting such a conflict was unlikely.39

The friendliest voice for US plans has come from the Japanese government, which in February 2005 joined the United States in citing security in the Taiwan Strait as a “common strategic objective.” Though formally noncommittal on the resolution of the disagreement, the Japanese shift comes at a time when Japan has signaled its desire to grow beyond its benign post–World War II status and take on a larger regional role. Though China remains one of Japan’s most important trading partners, the PRC’s assertive rise, combined with provocative North Korean actions, has driven the Japanese government away from its traditional pacifist stance. Unlike many Asian nations that still fear a resurgent Japan, Taiwan has been more receptive to Japanese assistance as a counterbalance to PRC pressure.40 While the joint US-Japanese statement drew sharp criticism from Beijing, it signaled a Japanese willingness to support a US defense of Taiwan.41

The Counterstrategy:
Balanced US Options to Neutralize the PRC’s Initiatives

To counter the PRC’s encroachment on US military options, American leaders must use Sun Tzu’s guidance and attack the PRC’s strategy. The United States should engage with Pacific-region nations beyond Japan using diplomatic, economic, and informational instruments of national power to retain military viability and flexibility. China has gained the advantage on the United States in its broad-based campaign vis-à-vis Taiwan with other -Pacific nations. Any US counterstrategy will require a domestic, interagency, and multi-lateral approach to defend Taiwan’s ability to resolve the conflict peacefully. The economic tool may be the hardest to apply in the Pacific region, given China’s proximity and potential for growth. The United States may not want to limit Chinese economic growth, as it could provide an emerging market for US businesses and a good lever for continued engagement with the Chinese populace.

America’s western Pacific foreign policy depends on balancing competing, often contradictory, nuanced requirements. While the United States seems to support the PRC claims to Taiwan by acknowledging “there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China,”42 the United States also maintains a balance to the PRC claims by remaining committed under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to seek a mutually agreeable, peaceful resolution to the standoff and by resisting PRC coercion to determine Taiwan’s future. Similarly, the United States recognizes that mainland China’s growing economic power, if used reasonably, can be a positive force to facilitate regional economic development and foster internal democratic reforms inside the PRC.

Yet, the United States has remained skeptical about China’s true ability to institute democratic reforms and has alternately seen the PRC as a strategic partner and a possible regional threat. Although the United States has encouraged China’s burgeoning economy, economic growth supports the PRC’s increasingly threatening military power, thus allowing the PRC to threaten Taiwan with forced assimilation. To balance this threat, the American government has attempted to carefully calibrate its arms sales to keep the cross-strait relationship stable—neither providing too many arms (making Taiwan appear threatening) nor too few (leaving the Taiwanese at the PRC’s mercy).43 At the more local level, while increasingly intertwined PRC and Taiwan economies would seem to lower the threat of conflict on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s independence debate has grated on the PRC leadership and kept tensions high.

The PRC’s hard-line stance on Taiwan comes in contrast to its other relations with the United States. Since 2004, the PRC’s leadership has deliberately sought to avoid confrontations with the United States, stressing its own commitment to peaceful regional development and growth. The single exception to this softening “peaceful rise” policy has been about reunification with Taiwan.44 To secure its territorial integrity over Taiwan, the PRC has used and will use its growing economic influence to challenge American relationships and build its own partnerships. It has already used its influence to coerce traditional American partners to distance themselves from supporting (or even considering) Taiwan’s independence. The harsh PRC reaction to recent -Japanese statements supporting a peaceful cross-strait resolution comes in sharp contrast to contemporary attempts between the two nations to find accord.

At its core, conflict over Taiwan exists at the intersection of three divergent national interests. The PRC, having staked great national pride and legitimacy in securing territorial unity, sees reunification with Taiwan as a vital national goal.45 Taiwan, a separate entity since 1949, sees itself increasingly as a sovereign nation. As discussed above, the United States has walked a fine line, supporting a one-China policy while backing the Taiwan government to prevent aggressive PRC military actions.

Despite reluctance on both sides of the -Taiwan Strait to use force in recent years, the specter of war cannot be wished away. Speculation has grown that the PRC will avoid -pursuing the conflict to the detriment of its economy or while it sits on the world stage for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite the pressure for peace, the Chinese have expressed their intense nationalistic sentiment over -Taiwan with passage of the Anti-Secession Law in March 2005,46 which signals the PRC’s willingness to follow a rule of law, arguably lessening the possibility of a surprise attack on Taiwan. Yet, the law also gives PRC leaders the legal authority to act when they deem necessary. As a result, US policy makers cannot discount a PRC military response/intervention; therefore, the United States must remain prepared to exercise its military options.

Within this context of balance, US diplomatic and information efforts should be the most useful elements of US national power to counter the PRC’s initiatives. Any US strategies should highlight Taiwan’s growth as a vibrant democracy and stress the Taiwanese right to self-determination. President Bush’s second inaugural speech served as a clear call for freedom around the world. The United States should invite other democracies to quietly, but firmly, support Taiwan’s peaceful efforts to exercise its own democracy. These efforts could be very effective in Australia, Japan, and South Korea, given each nation’s strong commitment to freedom, and would gain multi-lateral momentum as each nation stood up to support a fellow democracy.

Vietnam’s historical antipathy for Chinese domination could be used to forge a stronger relationship with the United States. While not a natural US ally due to its authoritarian government and lingering antipathy from its long struggle for independence, Vietnam could be persuaded to work with the United States to retain a proper balance of power or influence in the region. Vietnam has already come into conflict with the PRC concerning rights to the Spratly Islands and might be expected to chafe under the influence of a more powerful China. Vietnam’s well-documented distaste for Chinese domination might be greater than its anger at the United States over the Second Indochina War.

Neither can the United States afford to ignore its relationship with the Philippines, a relationship that has grown stronger during the global war on terrorism (GWOT). In September 2004, Philippine president Gloria Arroyo typified the balance required by the United States for dealing in the region when she stated her country’s desire to retain its security relationship with the United States while developing economic ties with the PRC. US GWOT efforts have garnered significant goodwill in the Philippines, and it must continue to leverage that goodwill by stressing its commitment to regional stability and Taiwan’s self-determination while developing its own economic ties in the archipelago.

While the US–Republic of Korea alliance remains a bulwark of both nations’ defense policy, securing guaranteed South Korean assistance towards Taiwan would be problematic. South Korean defense policy remains -understandably focused on its neighbors to the north. South Korea does not want to sour its relationship with the PRC, hoping the -Chinese can exert a positive influence on Kim Jong Il and North Korea. As a growing regional power in its own right, the South Koreans will be reluctant to align themselves with the Japanese (due to remaining animosity from Japan’s long Korean occupation) unless they perceive a greater threat from China. Due to these factors, gaining a solid commitment from the South Koreans for the United States to use their bases in defense of Taiwan remains unlikely.

For both Singapore and Australia, the United States must nurture already strong relationships to keep each of these governments from being isolated by the PRC concerning economic issues alone. The United States remains an important trading partner with each country but has also enhanced security relationships with both nations, especially since 11 September 2001. Both nations retain a dedication for regional stability and democratic self-determination. The PRC has already taken a heavy-handed diplomatic approach with both proud nations. The United States should augment its strong military and economic relationships with improved diplomatic and informational efforts to reassure Australia and Singapore and create a reasonable, viable alternative to an overly aggressive PRC.

The ultimate, best response to the PRC’s gambit comes from simply recognizing the strategy. American policy makers should focus less on the PLA’s growth and realize that the PRC can limit US military power without firing a shot. They should implement an integrated and multilateral—diplomatic, information, military, and economic—strategy to keep the use of military force viable and credible while still balancing US desires to advance the PRC’s democratic and market reforms. Finally, Taiwan’s leadership should realize that the American commitment to Taiwan’s defense is not unconditional and that its ability to intervene is not unlimited. Attacking the PRC’s strategy can allow the United States to subdue its enemy without fighting and allow a peaceful resolution between China and Taiwan.

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1. For an interesting perspective on how the PRC leadership may be using a different way of thinking about their strategic choices and methods in the western Pacific, see David Lai, Learning from the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China’s Strategic Concept, Shi (Carlisle Barracks, PA: US Army Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, May 2004), 28–31, http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi.

2. Gambit is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “a calculated move.”

3. Secretary of Defense, FY 04 Report to Congress: Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 28 May 2004, 1, http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/ d20040528PRC.pdf.

4. David Lai and Christopher Jones, “An Airpower Perspective on the China-Taiwan Tug of War” (unpublished manuscript, US Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL, July 2004), 18.

5. Sergio Coniglio, “China’s Aviation—A Military and Industrial Perspective,” Military Technology, November 2004, 2.

6. “Chinese Airfields—An Overview,” GlobalSecurity.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/airfield-overview.htm (accessed 27 March 2005).

7. Bernard Cole, “A Chinese Naval Assault against Taiwan: Capabilities and Prospects” (paper presented at the Fifth NDU Conference on National Security and Military Strategy, Republic of China National Defense University, 2005).

8. Richard L. Russell, “What If . . . ‘China Attacks Taiwan!’ “ Parameters 31, no. 3 (Autumn 2001): 81.

9. Cole, “Chinese Naval Assault,” 274.

10. DOD, FY 04 Annual Report, 49.

11. Lacy H. Bartee, “Possible U.S. Navy Responses to People’s Republic of China Military Action against Taiwan” (master’s thesis, US Army Command and Staff College, Fort Leaven-worth, KS, 2 June 2000), 68–73.

12. Russell, “What If . . . ‘China Attacks Taiwan!’ “ 80–82.

13. Piers M. Wood and Charles D. Ferguson, “How China Might Invade Taiwan,” Naval War College Review 54, no. 4 (Autumn 2001): 58.

14. Therefore, discussions in this article will deal with aircraft ranges required for operations over Taiwan, not over mainland China.

15. US military forces intervened in 1950 to preclude the PRC advances during the initial Korean conflict, in 1958 to forestall PRC attempts to take the Taiwan Strait islands, and again in 1995–96 to counter the PRC missile tests and military exercises. David Lai, “The China-Taiwan Question: A Tug of War” (unpublished manuscript, US Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL, 2003), 1–37.

16. DOD, FY 04 Annual Report, 47.

17. According to Bartee, these deployment times range from three and one-half days for a carrier in port in Japan to 16 and one-half days for carriers in port on the US west coast. “Possible U.S. Navy Responses.”

18. Nearly 4,700 USAF tanker sorties were flown for Operation Enduring Freedom. Robert S. Tripp et al., Supporting Air and Space Expeditionary Forces: Lessons from Operation Enduring Freedom, RAND MR-1819-AF (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2004), 13, http://www.rand.org/publications/ MR/MR1819/ (accessed 26 March 2005). Of the over 417 million gallons of fuel offloaded in Operation Iraqi Freedom, over 376 million gallons were offloaded by USAF tankers. T. Michael Moseley, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM—By the Numbers (Shaw AFB, SC: USCENTAF, Combined Forces Air Component, Assessment and Analysis Division, 30 April 2003), 7–8.

19. “The US flew roughly 6,500 strike missions and dropped about 17,500 munitions. Roughly 57% of the weapons dropped were smart weapons. The US Navy flew 4,900 of the 6,500 strike sorties flown, but delivered less than 30% of the ordnance. The US Air Force flew only 25% of the strike sorties flown, but delivered more than 70% of the ordnance used.” Anthony H. Cordesman, The Ongoing Lessons of Afghanistan: Warfighting, Intelligence, Force Transformation, and Nation Building (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6 May 2004), 26–28, 85, http://www.csis.org/burke/hd/reports/ afghanlessons.pdf (accessed 22 February 2005). See also Tripp et al., Supporting Air and Space Expeditionary Forces; and John Mazach, “The 21st-Century Triad: Unconventional Thinking about the New Realities of Conventional Warfare,” Seapower, March 2002.

20. Indeed, USAF assets demonstrated their abilities in this area during Exercise Resultant Fury ‘05, a November 2004 demonstration where USAF bombers displayed a countersea capability in the western Pacific.

21. “Economic Data,” Economist, 13 May 2004, http:// www.economist.com/countries/China/profile.cfm?fold er=Profile%2DEconomic%20Data (accessed 18 February 2005).

22. Chan Chao Peh, “Case Stories: Challenges, Lessons and Opportunities,” Edge (Singapore), 31 January 2005.

23. “Official: China Trade Volume to Reach 1.1 Trillion US Dollars in 2004,” Xinhua General News Agency, 25 October 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=fc144e6c5b2b3b38e264a23fb7da583e&_docnum=2&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=d6684bca9cb8b97630cff7b2b140de3f.

24. “Figures: Top Ten Trade Partners of China’s Mainland, January 2005,” Xinhua News Service, 26 March 2005, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=ed410ccb53ace88796e686e8e3f7daa8&_docnum= 1&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=e35e3b1514ab14403913de5d3a4f7fec.

25. Jason Leow, “Beijing Notes Singapore’s One-China Policy; Chinese Official Acknowledges PM Lee’s Opposition to Taiwan Independence; Warns Nations to Stay Away from Taiwan,” The Straits Times (Singapore), 26 August 2004.

26. “Chinese, Philippine Foreign Ministers Discuss Relations over Phone,” New China News Agency, 21 November 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m= 8b5726186b5e3c9a8bc15200260b9ce3&_docnum= 2&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=48309bf9d4e62fa1c859d94e08669dde.

27. “Chinese Premier Hopeful of Smooth Development of Ties with Vietnam,” Xinhua News Service, 7 October 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=31aa253f6ec902fd79b6f705056cc5d7&_docnum= 1&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=1b87507bb851320ea90bbb22141cc1ce.

28. Ted Galen Carpenter, “Outside View: Asia’s Message to Taiwan, US,” United Press International, 22 September 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=1d0ee9a92353a7f492952f3a233d8c61&_docnum= 1&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=42fcf4fdeb0ea488ff23f1f50829c4bb.

29. Zhao Huanxin, “Hu Meets Leaders on Taiwan Question,” China Daily, 22 November 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=decc099b94bed46e5a65f28afb8edee8&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbVzb-zSkVb&_md5=04554957e2d1fb8d5d207bb46e8ddad6.

30. “Chinese Premier Hopeful.” Sample Vietnamese air bases near Hanoi would be 900 nm from Taipei.

31. “Taiwan Tensions: Foreign Powers Have Good Reason to Worry about War,” Financial Times, 24 August 2004, 16.

32. Emerson T. Lim and Lilian Wu, “Philippine President Meets Taiwan Official in Chile,” Central News Agency, Taipei, 22 November 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=d0686d85219a5228ba680eadec7ab7b6&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbVtz-zSkVA&_md5=f0f21c7d04222c8a369d5b0794bd8574; “Philippines Want Stronger Ties with China,” United Press International, 8 September 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=9397ae74fee9cf09c77a77f133981659&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbVtz-zSkVA&_md5=e0027cfb72286584499fa581d882ba8b; and “Premier Wen Jiabao Looking Forward to Prime Minister Lee’s Visit,” Channel NewsAsia, 2 February 2005, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/ stories/singaporelocalnews/view/130485/1/.html.

33. For these discussions, distances from the capital of each country will be used as an example, rather than specific distances from any particular airfield.

34. “Chinese, Singaporean Foreign Ministers Praise Ties, Tsunami Cooperation,” New China News Agency, 2 February 2005, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=cb07f8a16c55243c2663cac01be8228b&_docnum=3&wchp=dGLbVtz-zSkVA&_md5=659070a6aa46bac987dd0b284b0a8189; “Visit an Icebreaker in Singapore Ties,” South China Morning Post, 4 February 2005, News sec., 7; “Singapore Foreign Minister Warns Asia-Pacific Stability at Stake,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4 October 2004, http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=76984eb8c701ded0ea4f223c5aac9c07&_docnum= 1&wchp=dGLbV tz-zSkVA&_md5=754b2cb700a0dc7ecd5ad04862ba93cd; “Singapore Believes China Will Not Use Force against Taiwan,” Kyodo News Service, 1 February 2005, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0WDQ/is_2005_Feb_7/ai_n9495322; Leow, “Beijing Notes”; “Lee Says His Taiwan Visit of Nation’s Interests,” Bernama, Malaysian National News Agency, 22 August 2004 http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=e8c093a6d64f341bea7d6738ad911b28&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbV tb-zSkVA&_md5=67430a7b3cda639de1c2d81758bda41e; and Zuraidah Ibrahim, “S’pore, China Talk Bilateral Trade and Economic Ties; PM Lee and Wen Jiabao Hold a ‘Good Discussion’ before ASEAN Summit,” Straits Times (Singapore), 29 November 2004.

35. “Flag-Burning Protesters in Taiwan Call Singapore Evil Neighbour,” Straits Times (Singapore), 2 October 2004.

36. These obligations include supporting the United States in the Pacific. “Taiwan Tensions,” 16.

37. Nick Bryant, “Taiwan’s Strait Jacket,” National Business Review (New Zealand), 10 September 2004, 24.

38. “UPI Hears . . .,” United Press International, 14 February 2005, http://www.washtimes.com/upi-breaking/ 20050214-103545-8660r.htm.

39. “PM to Side with US in China Row,” Mercury (Tasmania, Australia), 16 March 2005.

40. Japan’s colonial rule on Taiwan was much more benevolent than its other occupations; perhaps that explains the fondness many Taiwanese feel towards the Japanese.

41. Anthony Faiola, “Japan to Join U.S. Policy on Taiwan; Growth of China Seen behind Shift,” Washington Post, 18 February 2005, A01.

42. United States Information Service, Joint Communiqué of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, 28 February 1972, 28–40.

43. Alternately, the United States has worked to convince the Taiwanese to take proper responsibility for their own defense, sharing the defense burden equally.

44. Robert Sutter, China’s Peaceful Rise and U.S. Interests in Asia—Status and Outlook (Honolulu, HI: Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 24 June 2004), http://www.csis.org/pacfor/pac0427.pdf (accessed 26 March 2005).

45. The PRC has spelled out its position clearly over the years in documents like PRC, White Paper—The One China Principle and the Taiwan Issue (paper, Taiwan Affairs Office and the Information Office of the State Council, 21 February 2000), http://www.chinaconsulate.se/Content/ Taiwan/whitepaper1.htm (accessed 25 March 2005); and PRC, 8-Point Proposition Made by President Jiang Zemin on China’s Reunification (paper, PRC embassy in the USA, 30 January 1995), http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/zt/twwt/ t36736.htm (accessed 25 March 2005).

46. Anti-Secession Law, Xinhua News Service, 14 March 2005, http://www.china.org.cn/english/2005lh/122724.htm (accessed 17 June 2005). On 13 March 2005, the Chinese People’s Congress reaffirmed its commitment to reunification with an Anti-Secession Law adopted at the Third Session of the Tenth National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.


Col Lawrence M. Martin Jr.

Col Lawrence M. Martin Jr. (USAFA; MA, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; MASS, Air War College) is US Transportation Command’s liaison officer to US Pacific Command, Camp Smith, Hawaii. During a 20-year career, he has served in a variety of flying, staff, and leadership positions, including chief, Senior Officer Matters, Headquarters AMC, Scott AFB, Illinois; commander, 350th Air Refueling Squadron, McConnell AFB, Kansas; assistant professor, Department of History, US Air Force Academy, Colorado; and chief of tactics/evaluator pilot, 50th Tactical Airlift Squadron, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. He is a command pilot with over 3,300 hours in the C-130, UV-18B, and KC-135. Colonel Martin graduated from Air War College with highest academic distinction. He is also a distinguished graduate of US Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Quantico, Virginia, and Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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