TAIPEI, US — As a “nightmare for China”, the online publication Eur Asian Times describes the possibility of Taiwan becoming a depot for American ammunition. In the Western Pacific, Washington relies on similar facilities in the Philippines and Japan. Taiwan could become the third territory in the US logistics chain “under the nose” of China in the Asia-Pacific region.
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At the moment, there are negotiations between Washington and Taipei, the media write. They are expected to materialize, but until a positive decision is reached, they remain in the realm of speculation. For Washington, an ammunition depot in Taiwan will be extremely important in supplying its combat units in the region.
However, such a repository can easily be vulnerable. As we previously wrote, if a war between Taiwan and China were to happen, Taiwan would only be able to defend itself, not attack. But the island’s small territory makes Taiwan extremely vulnerable to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s medium-range missiles. Even if such a depot is protected by air defense, Beijing has the ability to neutralize this air defense by launching a massively concentrated simultaneous missile attack. An attack which, due to its intensity, renders air defense systems unable to prevent it.
Since there is no current threat to Japan and the Philippines, the US has located several ammunition depots in these countries. For example, there are four landfills in Japan, the last of which is located on the island of Nansei [or Ryukyu].
China has more LRASMs
From a kind of “political or legal” point of view, Taiwan could be granted the status of a “NATO ally” country if a munitions depot is built on the island.
The idea of a new munitions depot in Taiwan comes amid recent revelations by the Center for Strategic International Studies [CSIS]. According to the center’s report, in a war against China, the US would very quickly run out of anti-ship munitions, such as long-range anti-ship missiles [LRASM]. The simple calculation shows the superiority of China in numbers in this indicator – China has 3,650 units, while the USA has only 450 units in the region.
The “China threat” is currently being debated. Perhaps for this reason, Japan is expanding the scope of defense through new military bases. The latter was officially opened in mid-March on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. Similar bases like Ishigaki Tokyo opened on Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture and Miyako and Yonaguni Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
The proximity of an island Yonaguni
However, the Japanese island of Yonaguni can be included in the defense of Taiwan. This island is part of the Ryukyus/Nansei island chain. They are only 60 miles NW of Taiwan. Its location is a direct threat to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s naval northern flank.
The importance of the Japanese island of Yonaguni is already noted among Chinese observers. They note the key role of the newly formed US Coastal Regiments [MLR] specifically in the Ryukyus/Nansei island chain.
However, the presence of these bases in the island chain does not automatically mean a kind of Chinese deterrence. On the contrary, there are claims that the islands will not deter Beijing, but will be a kind of challenge to China’s tactical skills.
What does the expert say?
Mr. Grant Newsham who is a former US Marine says that “[MLR bases] can be bypassed or jumped or penetrated by brute force [and] are only one part of a more complex defense problem.”
In the background of all this, it is still necessary to note the Japanese passivity. Tokyo is in no rush to deploy American troops closer to China’s border. Japan also has no US troops near the territory it claims, such as Taiwan.
Ammunition dumps in the region can prove to be both a boon and a trap for US forces in the region. These depots have capacity and according to experts they will be able to supply the American forces only a few days after the outbreak of war. Then, if the US still wants to continue the war, it will be forced to launch its supply and refueling tankers. They, Newsham says, are Beijing’s target, and the US currently has no solution to eliminate their presence in the region of future conflict.
Ammunition warehouses are vulnerable. Another such opinion is expressed by the Indian submarine commander Ashok Bijalwan, who is now retired. According to him, warehouses are vulnerable, but it is possible that they can play a significant role in reducing the initial response time to an attack. The forward ammunition depots will be particularly vulnerable, says Bijalwan.
According to tacticians, Taiwan can be successful against China if the US and its allies make the war long-lasting with a short, sharp, and intense flare-up largely benefiting the US and its allies.
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