Conventional Defensive Thinking from Taiwan

Taiwan to Test-Fire Missile: Report,” Reuters, 6 July 2006,

Taiwan, an island democracy in the western Pacific, is preparing to defend itself from an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China

Taiwan plans to test-fire a missile capable of hitting China, alarming the island’s main ally, the United States, a cable news network said on Thursday.

That range would put areas along China’s coast from Fuzhou in Fujian Province to Nan’ao in Guangdong within striking distance of the missile, the Web site said.

This is probably a mistake. A much smater policy would combine unconventional warfare and Taiwan’s science and engineering infrastructure. Taiwan should build nuclear weaponry, and deploy bomb-wielding commando teams to the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai, and Tianjin, and Beijing.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

China may rationally calculate that in a first strike, she can prevent Taiwan from launching her missiles in defense. But if nomadic nuclear Taiwanese patriots were in position in critical parts of China, Beijing would not tempt invasion.

Defend democracy. Think different.

8 thoughts on “Conventional Defensive Thinking from Taiwan”

  1. Should Japan also develop and deploy a nuclear weapons capability?

    I approve of this idea for now, but also believe that reunification is inevitable, especially if Taiwan and China's leaders take on a more responsible tact for negotiations.

  2. Japan has the second largest navy in the world, and so doesn't “need” nuclear weapons to the extent that Taiwan does. So the issue seems relatively technical. Additionally, as Japan is about six weeks from the bomb, her task would be much easier than Taiwan's.

    Reunification between China and Taiwan is as inevitable as reunification between Holland and the German Empire is 1872. Close geographic location, different languages may just be “dialects,” different historical dynamics, different political traditions. It may happen or may not. If it happens democratically on both sides America should be fine with it. If not, then we must break China's legs.

  3. I'm on a contrary roll! Originally posted this at CA but it's relevant here too.

    Actually, I’ve heard that Japan nuclear meme repeated a lot and I feel like challenging it today. The arguement that Japan can go nuclear in days/weeks/months/insert short time span here, is correct on a basic level, but once analyzed in a more in depth manner, fails to hold water. Japan could execute a nuclear detonation in a relatively brief period of time, as the physics involved is public knowledge and it has the capabilities to produce and refine the neccessary fuel. However, simply producing a nuclear explosion and weaponizing a nuclear device are two entirely different issues. To use a baseball analogy, its akin to the difference between merely making contact with a bat and a ball and hitting a home run. There are countless factors, including some very critical ones which will delay Japan’s timeframe to field a credible nuclear deterrant by at least several years.

    First thing’s first, miniaturization. It is one thing to simply produce a nuclear bomb, it takes more effort to reduce it in size to a deliverable form. Since Japan has no strategic bombers that I am aware of, this will require that Japan use missiles (something that they also do not possess at present) which will have a greater payload limitation.

    Second factor, a nuclear weapon is composed of many subassemblies, all of them critical, such as the fuse of the weapon. Japan has no experience designing or testing such a device and they must design, test, and refine this ability repeatedly in order to verify a reliable product. Not to mention other critical components such as guidance systems, counter-measures, etc.

    Third factor and one that relates to the first, Japan has no ability to deliver even a rudimentary weapon at present besides loading it up in a C-130 and doing a kamikaze attack. However, since a C-130 is unlikely to survive an intact air defense system, Japan needs a ballistic missile to delivery the weapon. It will take several years to design and develop a new delivery vehicle. Civilian launch vehicles are not a viable alternative, to the contrary of arm chair strategists. Japan has only one civilian launch site at Tanegashima and it takes weeks to prepare a civilian rocket for launch. Making it EXTREMELY vulnerable as a launch can be pre-opted by a mobile srbm or cruise missile within minutes.

    Japan can detonate a nuclear explosive within a few month. Japan is also likely to be able to create a first generation gravity bomb akin to Fat Man or Little Boy within the space of a year. To create a robust and reliable nuclear deterrant system will require significantly more time, years if not a decade or more and considerable financial investment.

    The established nuclear powers have spent trillions of dollars and detonated several hundred megatons worth of bombs over a span of 5 decades to arrive at where they are. Japan can’t replicate that sort of first hand knowledge and experience overnight no matter how many fancy consumer electric gadgets they make, the technology involved is apples and oranges.

  4. Jing,

    I yield to your detailed and knowledgeable analysis.

    So if Japan is only a short time from a nuclear bomb but a year or so to create something truly threatening, then Japan's threat to build one is more meaningful.

    It is thus more surprising that China did not prevent the nuclearization of Korea. It seems that whatever benefit China gets from a nuclear DPRK it loses from a nuclearized Japan.

  5. What matters is Japan's credibility in carrying through on such a threat. So long as the U.S.-Japan alliance is intact, Tokyo doesn't need a deliverable nuke in a month's time. What is Beijing going to do if Tokyo announces it will build a bomb? Nuke Japan and start a nuclear war with the United States ?

    What China's national security requires is that Japan not be aggravated into acquiring a significant foreign policy and military power projection capacity that is independent of the U.S. alliance – something Japan can afford to build if they chose to do so.

  6. I just wanted to correct one commonly held erroneous belief that simply achieving a nuclear detonation constitutes a credible deterrant.

    However, I question ultimately if Japan's nuclear status alone will actually change on a fundamental level China's policy vis-a-vis Japan. At present Japan is under uncle sam's nuclear umbrella and an independent Japanese nuclear capability is in a threat sense not drastically different than existing circumstances (except for perhaps a numerical increase in missiles). The impacts are I expect more psychological than strategic with the three particular focal points. The nuclearization of Japan will not be a cause of changing Japanese policy but will be a result of more assertive policy choices which would have sent reprecussions in the Chinese security community long since. Perhaps on a more signfiicant bases, the nuclearization of Japan will alter the existing U.S. Japanese security arrangement though to what degree I can only speculate. Finally the nuclearization of Japan will most immediately reflect and augment changes in the socio-political culture of the Japanese public.

    All things being said, I believe the chances of a nuclear capable Japan are remote. There are a number of reasons for this but suffice it to say that it is possible to operate an assertive foreign policy without neccessarily the threat of nuclear force. Also there are several not-insignificant impedements to nuclear weapons on Japan beyond the technical aspects. It is not a matter of Koizumi simply waving his hand an lo' a nuclear program is born.

  7. Mark,

    During the Cold War, the British left wished to both denuclearize Britain and remove the isle from America's nuclear umbrella. However, even if Japan lands in that situation (by, saying, assisting Taiwan against American protests), her situation would not be so dire. Japan is a stronger country than 1970s UK was, and faces a weaker opponent.


    I agree that the major effect of a nuclear Japan will be psychological and that “the nuclearization of Japan will most immediately reflect and augment changes in the socio-political culture of the Japanese public.”

    Such a change is encouraged by every North Korean outrage. Unlike India [1], China has only one crazy neighbor to deal with. Too bad her touchy-feely realism prevents her from dealing more effectively.


  8. “This is probably a mistake. A much smater policy would combine unconventional warfare and Taiwan's science and engineering infrastructure.”

    I think Taiwan just suggesting that this would be a strategy would be a partial detterent. It would be easy for PRC Intelligence to find fixed or mobile launchers and to watch testing.

    Hi-tech-bomber-commandoes would be hard to verify and track. The PRC could never be sure of the extent of Taiwan's capability. Taiwan could “leak” some photo's or misc details every once in awhile to re-enforce it.

    Think of it as adding psychological warfare to the higher-tech guerrilla warfare deterrent you suggest. The PRC would appreciate this too:

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