In 2023, the United States has promised to send so much weaponry to the Indo-Pacific region that China won’t even think about occupying Taiwan. It’s already too late, say lawmakers and sympathisers.
The pledge is significant: According to Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs, “2023 is likely to stand as the most revolutionary year in U.S. military posture in the region in a generation.”
However, GOP lawmakers claim it will be difficult for the Pentagon to fulfil that commitment. That’s because Beijing now has a navy strong enough to challenge long-standing American naval dominance in the Indo-Pacific, supported by air power and “carrier killer” ballistic missiles. Additionally, there is a backlog in the delivery of billions of dollars’ worth of American armaments to Taiwan because of pandemic-related supply chain problems that have been made worse by the situation in Ukraine.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who will head the new House Select Committee on China in the coming Congress, stated, “We have a verbal commitment to a force posture adjustment in the Indo-Pacific, but that’s belied by the reality of what’s actually happening.” He compared Ratner’s claims to “whistling past the dead” in terms of military strategy.
Those who are knowledgeable about American military power in the area concur.
According to Alexander Gray, a former chief of staff for the National Security Council in the Trump administration, countering China’s military threat will “demand a larger navy force structure than we have in the foreseeable future.”
This is raising concerns that Beijing may use its growing naval edge to invade Taiwan before the U.S. military can respond, igniting a devastating regional confrontation that would force the United States to either act or break its commitment to defend the self-governing island.
To preserve a “competitive advantage” over China’s military, the Pentagon has spent billions on Asia-focused efforts since 2021, including base maintenance and the relocation of some U.S. forces within the region. In the upcoming 12 months, Ratner added, the U.S. military presence in the area will become “more lethal, more mobile, and more robust,” dropping hints that new alliances are in the works. Details on what it will actually imply were to be revealed in early 2023, he said.
However, detractors claim that the U.S. may be so far behind that this objective is unattainable. In preparation for replacing them with more contemporary models, the Pentagon is planned to temporarily reduce the number of Navy ships and planes stationed in the area. Additionally, it could be challenging to carry out a plan to assist Australia in developing nuclear submarines as part of a combined effort to deter China due to restrictions on U.S. shipbuilding.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, stated, “I frankly do not feel we are moving fast enough to shift the correlation of forces in the Pacific in our favour.”
Though the Biden administration has accelerated the approval of military sales to Taiwan, some $19 billion of those weapons, including Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, have not yet been delivered due to supply chain problems.
You will be in a perilous position with regard to near-term deterrence over Taiwan until you translate all this cheerful talk about arming Taiwan into reality, Gallagher warned.
The Capitol Hill is not free of obstacles. A clause in the defence policy bill, which President Biden signed into law on Friday, permits up to $10 billion in grants from the United States for security assistance to Taiwan over the following five years. However, appropriators restricted that funding in an omnibus government spending bill by requiring that the assistance must be provided in the form of loans, not grants, at least for this fiscal year.
The Pentagon insists that it is dedicated to giving the Indo-Pacific top priority despite the difficulties.
The Pentagon is seeking alternatives that “will add additional flexibility and increase the U.S. military’s capacity to operate forward with our allies and partners,” according to Pentagon spokesman John Supple.
We absolutely anticipate that our dedication and ongoing efforts will bear fruit in 2023, he said.
In contrast, China is acting more aggressively in the waters near Taiwan. Beijing is constructing additional warships, invading Taiwan’s airspace with nuclear-capable bombers, and threatening to use force to take control of the autonomous island.
The Pentagon described China’s 340-warship navy last month as “an increasingly modern and versatile force.” China’s fleet is now the largest in the world. There are 292 ships in the US Navy.