A leak of dozens of highly classified documents from the Pentagon has revealed troubling details about Taiwan’s ability to fend off a potential attack from China.
The assessments suggest that Taiwan is unlikely to thwart Chinese military air superiority in a cross-strait conflict, with tactics such as China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes eroding U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion.
According to the leaked documents, Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can accurately detect missile launches, and only slightly over half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable. Moreover, moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week, which would be a major problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes.
The classified documents addressing a potential conflict suggest that China’s air force would have a much better shot at establishing early control of the skies than Russia did in Ukraine.
The leak has provided extensive insight into U.S. intelligence activities worldwide, with many of the several hundred assessments that have surfaced thus far dating to February and March. The documents first appeared on the Discord messaging platform before spreading elsewhere online.
The leak has caused alarm, particularly as U.S.-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, and concerns continue to grow about a potential conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Liberation Army, China’s fast-modernizing military that is roughly 14 times the size of its neighbor’s force.
Both the Pentagon, where many of the materials appear to have originated this year, and the Justice Department are investigating the security breach.
The FBI arrested its primary suspect, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard named Jack Teixeira, on Thursday afternoon. The revelations about Taiwan’s readiness, however, remain a cause for concern, particularly as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to rise.
Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey progressive Democrat who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018, accused her former opponent, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, of potentially instigating a war with China with legislation to arm Taiwan.
McCormick suggested that Menendez’s amendment included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY23., which allocated up to $10 billion over the next five years to modernize Taiwan’s security capabilities to “defeat aggression by the People’s Republic of China”.
McCormick said Menendez provided weapons to the breakaway island, which would be seen as provocative act by China.
After the Menendez amendment was enacted, Communist officials ordered military jets to harass Taiwan, which has raised concerns about the potential for military conflict in the region.
While the situation between Taiwan and China has been long-standing, the recent escalation has led to increased tensions between the US and one of its largest trading partners.
The U.S. has been a long-time supporter of Taiwan, providing military and economic assistance to the self-governed island.
However, China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and has repeatedly warned against any foreign interference in what it sees as its internal affairs.
McCormick says that pursuing peace is not a weakness.
“This is a firm response to the current U.S.-Taiwan escalation and provocation,” said Shi Yi, a spokesperson for the Chinese military who issued a statement that denounced Menendez’s Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act (TERA), which was included as an amendment to the $858 billion defense spending legislation.
“There is more hope that human rights can be brought to China, which has expressed a desire for a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but our top foreign policy influencers seem to have a ‘shoot first’ tendency that works against our interests,” said McCormick, who believes many Americans are unaware of the relationship between China and Taiwan.
The issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty is a delicate one, and any attempts to arm the island could be seen as a provocation by China, potentially leading to military action. As such, the situation requires a delicate balancing act by U.S. policymakers, who must navigate the complex relationship between Taiwan and China while also ensuring the security and well-being of the people of Taiwan.