Simulation: Chinese invasion of Taiwan would likely fail


(NewsNation) — A new report from a Washington think tank suggests that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would end in a quick defeat for China but come at the cost of thousands of U.S. service members.

The scenario run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) comes as China continues to hold large-scale military exercises that involve sending warplanes toward Taiwan. Tensions have heightened since last fall, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island nation that Beijing claims as its own.

Researchers at CSIS set out to simulate what an invasion might look like, running 24 different scenarios. Taiwan survived as an “autonomous entity” in most, but Japan, the United States and Taiwan all suffered heavy losses in the simulations.

One of the authors, retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian, said Tuesday on “Rush Hour” that in all the scenarios, the invasion always starts the same way: a covert mobilization and then a missile attack on Taiwan and strikes on U.S. naval forces.

“United States policy has always been ambiguous, but we assume there’s at least a good chance the United States would enter the war, particularly if its forces were attacked,” Cancian said. “And the United States has postured forces to be able to do that.”

China claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island, which split from the mainland in 1949 in a civil war. The United States officially does not recognize Taiwan as being independent but does provide billions in defense aid.

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August was the first by a House speaker since Newt Gingrich went in 1997. During her trip, Pelosi vowed the U.S. would not “abandon” the self-governing island.

China immediately ramped up its military exercises, the most recent of which occurred Sunday. Over the course of 24 hours between 6 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday morning, China’s People’s Liberation Army flew 57 warplanes and four ships toward Taiwan, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement Monday morning.

In the event of an invasion, the CSIS simulations project that China’s forces would lose quickly because of an assumed strong U.S. response and geography.

“Taiwan is an island this is easy to defend,” Cancian said. “The central area is very mountainous, the coastal plains are intersected with rivers and many cities that are easy to defend.”

Amphibious assaults are also very difficult, Cancian said.

“It’s a race against time whether the Chinese can capture a port or an airfield to bring in more forces and logistics before the Taiwanese can contain them and the U.S. strikes will attrite their fleet,” Cancian said. “In almost all the situations, the United States was able to attrite the fleet before the Chinese could build up enough forces on Taiwan to capture the whole island.”

The report includes recommendations for how U.S. policymakers should continue to respond to China’s growing assertiveness, including strengthening relations with Japan, which hosts U.S. military bases.

“Without Japanese basing, U.S. fighter/attack aircraft had to come from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, which was then generally crippled by Chinese missile strikes,” the report states. “This enables China to mass its airpower forward and concentrate on support of ground forces on Taiwan.”

The simulation projects the U.S. could see in the area of 140 personnel casualties per day, approaching the rate in World War II, 300 per day. The 3,200 projected deaths in three weeks of combat would be half the total from 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In addition to shocking the U.S. public, the scale of casualties and equipment loss would stagger a U.S. military that has dominated battlefields for a generation,” the report states. “These losses would be particularly difficult for the Air Force and Navy, which have essentially operated in sanctuary since the end of World War II.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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