politics, history and the war on terror
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
ChiCom, Taiwan and the USN 

Last week, in a little reported news story that should have garnered more attention, the United States Navy announced plans for an unprecedented show of force in the Pacific Ocean north of Taiwan. Operation Summer Pulse 04 will deploy seven of the twelve existing Carrier Battle Groups to demonstrate the capability of the United States to smash any invasion of Taiwan by Communist China. Some neoconservatives have lamented that the U.S. is abandoning Taiwan for the sake of friendly relations with China, including assistance with the North Korean nuclear crisis. Summer Pulse demonstrates the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is not dead. While China is not an enemy of the U.S. in the War on Terror, the two nations are regional and ideological opponents, and China's actions and America's policies in Asia have an impact on the War on Terror.

China and the War on Terror

China's stance on the United States' War on Terror has generally been neutral to supportive, as it has not opposed the United States in the United Nations concerning Afghanistan or Iraq. China has not protested U.S. involvement other areas of Asia where the U.S. has forged local cooperation in fighting terror, such as Pakistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and other central Asian nations. Part of the reason for China's cooperation with the U.S. may be concern over its local terrorism problem with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a local Islamist group in the Xinjiang province with links to al Qaeda. But China may also be using the War on Terror and the North Korean nuclear standoff to advance its own goals of reunification with Taiwan and its rise as a global power.

A Brief History of Communist China, Taiwan and American involvement

Before, during and after World War II, China fought a civil war between Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek and Communists under Mao Zedong. The Communists were victorious in 1949 and established the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan and other islands to establish the Republic of China (ROC). The United States supported the ROC, and the United Nations recognized the ROC as the legitimate representative in the U.N. up until 1971 with the passage of UNSC Resolution 2758. The U.S., under President Carter, withdrew support from the government of ROC in 1979 to normalize relations with the PRC, but the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act allowed the U.S. to maintain informal diplomatic ties as well as economic and military assistance to Taiwan which continue to this day.

One China

Recognition of the "One China" policy is Communist China's requirement for diplomatic relations with the PRC. The policy states that communist mainland China is the legitimate government of the Chinese people and that reunification is the eventual goal. China views Taiwan as a renegade province and has conducted several threatening military exercises in the past decade to intimidate Taiwan, including ballistic missiles tests in 1996 that landed near Taiwan's ports, basing missiles on the coast of mainland China in 2001 and more missile tests and naval exercises in March of 2004 prior to elections in Taiwan. Taiwan has pressed for independence from China, in opposition to the PRC, and has requested to become a full member of the United Nations. These efforts have been opposed by the Clinton and Bush administrations in an attempt to maintain relations with China and avoid the possibility of war as China may be pushed to prevent the establishment of an independent nation of Taiwan.

On the Move

The War on Terror has forced the United States to reconsider its worldwide troop deployments to confront the real threat of global terrorism. Europe and Asia are not major theaters in the war, and the military assets can be put to better use in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Redeployments from Korea and Japan as well as the diversion of naval and air assets to the Middle East and Central Asian theaters provides China an opportunity to exploit America's perceived weakness in the Pacific rim, and gives China reasons to consider reunification by force. China has worked to modernize its military and improve its economy (a more in depth, but dated, analysis can be viewed here) and intends develop its Navy into a regional force with blue water (open ocean) capabilities that could threaten American naval dominance in the Pacific. China's space program is also being developed to include anti-satellite capabilities with the idea of challenging America's space superiority. While it is estimated China is decades behind America's military sophistication, China's commitment to improving its military capabilities poses a direct threat to Taiwan's independence from communist rule and America's military dominance in the Pacific. Any American redeployments from the region have a real impact on the status of U.S., Chinese and Taiwanese relations. However the impact of America's military transformation, the process of reorganizing the military using new weapons systems, training, mobility, firepower, intelligence and organization to fight efficiently and effectively in the 21st century cannot be discounted when discussing the drawdown of forces in Asia. If China is evaluating American power by the size of its forces alone it would be making a serious error in judgment.


The deployment of the carrier armada by the U.S. Navy will have serious consequences. The U.S. has unconditionally reaffirmed its commitment to the defense of Taiwan in the Taiwan in the bluntest way - through a military show of force. The U.S. will also demonstrate its global reach and power projection at a time US forces are stretched thin due to commitments in the War on Terror. But the U.S. must not become complacent. It must maintain a military, economic and diplomatic edge to stay head of China. The deployment will be a direct slap in the face of China, and will likely force a further revamp of its military. But it may cause them to have second thoughts about competing with the U.S. Navy dominance of the sea lanes.

It is possible the surging of carrier fleets for exercises in the Pacific may be related to the War on Terror, a pretext for an increased naval presence in the Pacific to secure shipping lanes from potential terrorist threats. The naval aspect of the War on Terror is generally overlooked, but attacks on seaports and shipping choke points can cause serious damage to cities, world trade and the economic security of the United States. Wretchard of the Belmont Club has recently written on the importance of foreign oil to Europe and developing nations in Asia and the vulnerabilities of shipping choke points in the Pacific, specifically the Straits of Malacca. China is rapidly become the world's second largest importer of foreign oil, and depends on a significant amount from the Middle East for its imports. Ironically, the sea lanes China needs protected to import its oil can only be defended by the United States Navy.


Thanks to Michael at The Common Virtue for finding the original article on Operation Summer Pulse 04. Michael is a cadet in the Army ROTC and his blog is highly recommended for a daily read. Drop by, say hello and wish him the best of luck in defending this great nation.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:37 AM