US determined to further escalate by supplying 400 anti-ship missiles to Taiwan

While the Chinese Navy is among the world leaders in terms of capabilities of its surface combatants, having up to 400 land-based anti-ship missiles so close to many of its homeports leaves its ships vulnerable to surprise attacks or possible saturation strikes.

Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst

Faced with the looming defeat in Ukraine, Washington DC is desperate to ensure that it can achieve at least one strategic victory against one of its many geopolitical adversaries. America’s increasingly disturbing obsession with China and the burning desire to at least somewhat offset its meteoric rise are causing countless headaches to the strategic planners in Washington DC, particularly the Pentagon. Beijing’s repeated overtures to find a peaceful solution that could benefit all sides have been flatly refused by the US every single time, leaving China with only one option – to prepare for war. This is certainly not to say the Asian giant wants it, but as President Xi Jinping himself stated, his country is quite literally left with no other option.

And yet, China is still somewhat hopeful this can be avoided, although it wants to ensure that it’s ready for any possible contingency (or should we say, highly likely in this particular case). Still, the United States is trying everything in its power (short of direct war, for now, at least) to make sure there are as many escalating contingencies as possible. The latest such move includes the plan to sell at least 400 land-based “Harpoon” anti-ship missiles to the separatist government in Taipei. The sale has been confirmed by the president of the US-Taiwan Business Council Rupert Hammond-Chambers during a recent interview with Bloomberg. Needless to say, Beijing sees this as a major escalation.

While “Harpoon” anti-ship missiles are quite dated and are definitely no match for Chinese (let alone Russian) weapons of the same class, deploying 400 of them is certainly a worrying figure for any military. With a range of up to 200 km, the missile is still a threat to all Chinese shipping in the Taiwan Strait, as it perfectly fits the width of the strait (180 km). And while China’s breakaway island province has previously acquired the shipborne and airborne versions of the missile, deployed on warships and F-16 fighter jets, respectively, this marks the first time it has purchased the mobile, land-based version. It offers several distinct advantages over the previous two, particularly the possibility of deploying the launchers across the island’s west coast.

From there, forces loyal to Taipei could comfortably target Chinese ships, even those still docked at ports on the coast of the neighboring Fujian province. And while the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) is among the world leaders in terms of capabilities of its surface combatants, having up to 400 land-based anti-ship missiles so close to many of its homeports leaves the Chinese Navy ships vulnerable to surprise attacks (in case they’re undergoing maintenance at ports) or possible saturation strikes (in case they sail out). The land-based version of the “Harpoon” anti-ship missile is also more dangerous in this regard as it cannot be countered as easily as the air-launched or ship-based versions. The latter two are carried by jets and ships that can be shot down and sunk, respectively.

According to Bloomberg, “the Pentagon announced the $1.7 billion contract with Boeing on April 7, but stopped short of mentioning Taiwan as the purchaser at a moment of tense US-China relations due to ratcheting Chinese military drills around the self-ruled island”. Obviously, Bloomberg’s assertion that the Pentagon cares about “avoiding escalating rhetoric” is quite laughable given the fact that it’s providing 400 missiles whose sole purpose is to target Chinese ships and possibly kill thousands of sailors deployed on the said vessels. The arms acquisition comes days after a large delegation of the “ever peace-loving” US MIC (Military Industrial Complex) announced it would pay a visit to the island. And as if this wasn’t enough, the US Navy sailed its guided-missile destroyer, the USS Milius, through the Taiwan Strait on April 16 as part of its wanton “freedom of navigation” exercises.

The Blomberg report also states that “the Harpoon contract has been cited by members of Congress including Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as part of as much as $19 billion in backlogged US sales to Taiwan that they say need to be accelerated”. However, Bloomberg adds that this is far from the complete list, as it also includes the F-16 Block 70 fighter jets, the MK-48 torpedoes, the M109A6 “Paladin” self-propelled howitzers and the “Stinger” missiles.

The aforementioned Congressman McCaul recently stated that the US would go to war with China over Taiwanese semiconductors. Days prior he openly declared that he would support sending US troops to Taiwan if the American people approved such a move. This inflammatory rhetoric has been virtually “normalized” by the US in recent times. Sending people like McCaul to China’s breakaway island province at a time when Beijing is insisting on a peaceful settlement is quite indicative of the new age of McCarthyism in US foreign policy.

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