Containing China: Will Taiwan go Nuclear?

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Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava (Retd.)
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava (Retd.)
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn, and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected] * Views are personal

‘International Policeman’ has established an exemplary and outstanding demonstration of ‘how not to execute a military withdrawal?’ Korean and Vietnam misadventures pale into insignificance when compared with the mess created by successive US administrations in Afghanistan in the past two decades. Had the mess been confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan, it would have been, perhaps, acceptable as yet another folly.

In the past 60 odd years only one US President showed exemplary foresight in keeping the US Military out of the conflict situation. JFK, in spite of all the advice, decided to handle the Bay of Pigs crisis through a very successful dialogue. As a soldier, I view the US approach to use force at slightest provocation, primarily due to an extremely advanced and powerful weapon manufacturing capability.

The US has used Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and many other locations on the globe to carry out live testing of their advanced weaponry, airlift capability and amazing capability to strike anywhere on the globe outside the US mainland without even landing in a friendly country for logistics support. Famous quote ‘Power Corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ was perhaps coined for the USA.

US politicians and Generals apparently carry a preconceived notion that mere fire power will resolve issues in their favour. That they have not learnt it in the past 75 years is due to their most inhuman decision to drop nukes over Japan. US thinking is akin to the rising mushroom of a nuclear blast supported by a thin stem. It is explosive in nature. Explosions are uncontrolled chemical reactions.

Likewise, the US administration thinks and acts placing humanity at risk. US intervention in Afghanistan was counter terrorism operation as claimed by current POTUS. In recent times there could not have been a bigger and more blatant lie in the strategic domain. The US wanted to show the world that they would succeed where Russia failed.

Rest, as they say, is history and will be documented in great detail by post event specialists spread all over the world. US moral capitulation in Afghanistan has a more frightening dimension other than military disaster. It conveys loud and clear that the USA has no remorse and/or responsibility to leave a place occupied by the US Military in better shape than what existed before US intervention.

NATO ‘friends’ must be in a huddle to examine the possibility of a war with Russia on European soil with the US basking in the safety of their trans-Atlantic location on globe. Response by Russia and China to a nuclear tipped ICBM launched from the mainland US will have almost instantaneous reprisal not only in the USA but also in entire Europe as well. The USA can no longer provide protection to its non-NATO allies as well as NATO friends.

An immediate offshoot of this glaring and stark reality will embolden China to accelerate the pace of invasion of Taiwan. Will the US Military arrive to defend Taiwan in case of a swift Chinese amphibious assault? Indeed, the US has and will continue to arm Taiwan to keep China at bay. But for how long will this arrangement continue.

Can a non-nuclear Taiwan defend itself against China? North Korea and Pakistan are near perfect examples of what nuclear capable rogue nations can do/will do, if threatened? Simultaneous withdrawal of US Military from Iraq and Afghanistan sends a clear message to the non-NATO allies of the USA; US soldiers will no longer shed their blood in an alien land. Joe Biden could not have been more candid when he said, ‘Afghans should fight their own war’. Morally speaking it is absolutely correct but is not in consonance with Yankee thinking that spread of communism must be contained at all costs.

In fact, senior officials viz Blinken (Secretary of State) and Sullivan (NSA) have blamed Afghans for allowing Taliban’s to run over the country in less than a fortnight. Almost all military strategists are claiming that Afghan Military trained by US was incompetent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The glaring fact is that the Afghan Military did not want to fight their own kin. There is a stark lesson for occupational forces; modern weapons do not alter the cerebral truth. An Afghan will not fire on another Afghan on the orders of occupational force.

Hopefully the US has finally learnt the bitter lesson. In spite of huge public uproar after Vietnam, subsequent US administration paid no heed. The US should learn to count the ‘cost of war’ in terms of ‘BODY BAGS’ rather than US Dollars. US ambivalence has been taken note of by her adversaries, Russia in particular. In fact, some of prominent NATO allies, too, have taken a divergent position e.g., Germany on the issue of energy security. Angela Merkel succeeded in forcing the US administration to allow the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. US ‘betrayal’ with non-NATO allies might lead to fissures growing wider in the already ‘brain dead’ NATO.

Ukraine is nearly up in arms about the US deciding on its NATO membership. With virtually everything going wrong for the USA, China must be considering it to be an opportune time to ‘resolve’ Taiwan issue, once for all. Cacophony in UNSC makes no difference. Taiwan must be blamed for its ‘non-nation state’ squarely on Henry Kissinger, who was head over heels to establish relations with China under the Nixon regime. A story of US betrayal rarely told. Taiwan has little option but to defend itself. With conventional weapons it is well-nigh impossible. Going nuclear, that too in a hurry is the only option. No power will ever try to get into conflict with a nuke capable impoverished nation.

The US-North Korea standoff is an excellent example of that philosophy. At this stage it will be pertinent to examine not only the intent but also the capability of Taiwan going nuclear. It is not as if Taiwan never harboured the intention to go nuclear. Taiwan had an ongoing nuclear weapons program, which was scuttled by the Reagan administration in the late 80s.

Taiwan must be kicking itself for retracting their nearly successful nuclear weapon programme much to the delight of China. Non proliferation specialists advocate non proliferation only during UNSC meetings or IAEA inspections of non nuclear states. Taiwan going nuclear will be of enormous strategic significance to its own security as well as the expansionist design of China. India, too, will be a beneficiary by default.

A non-nuclear Taiwan will be a sitting duck for China. Only other option would then be US supplying off the shelf nukes to Taiwan, an unthinkable weapons deal/sale/transfer till a few months back might become a reality in the not too distant future. Unless of course the US remains a spectator to China devouring a flourishing democracy.

Is Taiwan capable of producing and delivering a nuclear weapon? Answers to this vexed question can be gauged from facts listed below; Taiwan signed NPT in 1968. Taiwan commenced nuke research as early as the early 50s. The USA has deployed nukes in Taiwan until 1974 at Tainan Air Base. By late 80s Taiwan had developed a warhead design of about 60 cm and weight of about 1000 kg.

The Sky Horse ballistic missile system (Tien Ma), developed by by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), was also under development. Nuclear researchers had graded Taiwan as a ‘THRESHOLD’ nuclear state in the early 80s. The US ‘contribution to Taiwan going Nuclear brings out interesting disclosures. Two interesting recorded incidents will lift the veil of doubting thomases. These are; In 2006 US Defense Department ‘mistakenly’ shipped secret nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan and discovered their ‘mistake’ only two years later in 2008. Same year officials of Defence Logistics Agency (DLA) ‘mistakenly’ sent four nose cone fuse assemblies to Taiwan. Fuses are required to trigger nuclear warheads installed in Minuteman ICBMs as they approach the point of impact.

Was this a genuine mistake or was it meant to enable Taiwan to copy the design of one of the most important entities of a nuclear weapon? Taiwan’s options are limited to just one. Depending on US Military assistance in the event of Chinese assault, which may not fructify given the prevailing state of utter confusion and ambivalence in US foreign policy. It is another issue that US forces remain in South Korea and Philippines has extended the VFA status.

Taiwan has to fend for itself, indeed with US supplied weapons. But conventional weapons will not deter China from attacking Taiwan. Only nuclear deterrence will make China think twice before embarking on the offensive other than verbal. Should the world be ready to ‘welcome’ a new nuclear weapon capable state in the not too distant future? Make no mistake: Taiwan’s freedom is at stake.


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