- - Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April 10 will mark the 40th anniversary of the U.S. enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which has been the foundation of a strong history of trust and cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. However, on Sunday two Chinese J-11 fighter jets crossed the Taiwan Strait’s “median line,” stoking a 10-minute standoff with Taiwanese jets in the island’s airspace. The situation in the Taiwan Strait is treacherous and the potential for a war between Taiwan and China is likely to grow in 2019. The tensions have been escalated since China’s President Xi Jinping warned Taiwan that unification must be the ultimate goal and that efforts to assert full independence could be met by armed force.

China has upward of 1,500 ballistic missiles based in Fujian province, directly across the narrow strait from Taiwan. Beijing would likely start with a naval and air blockade of Taiwan, with coordinated massive missile strikes on key island infrastructures. At the same time, China would launch cyber strikes on Taiwan’s computer, early warning and communications networks. The Taiwanese military is woefully under-manned, unable to supply a bare minimum of soldiers to defend the island, and is drastically short of all kinds of weaponry and armaments needed to defend itself against China.

The United States has a significant interest in helping Taiwan because of Taiwan’s strategic position in the island chain bracketing China’s east coast. President Trump should bolster Taiwan’s defenses with a sale of advanced fighters, especially given Chinese efforts to change the cross-Strait status quo.


Research fellow, Institute for Taiwan-America Studies


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