Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Patience Has Its Limits

Those patient Chinese who are willing to let Taiwan fall into their hands without going to war are building an amphibious fleet on a crash basis:
China is apparently building a large quantity of amphibious shipping. Two LSDs Landing Ship Dock) are being built in large covered sheds. They appear to be about 25,000 tons each and carry four LCAC (high speed landing craft) and four helicopters each. China is building 4-5 LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) a year. These are 4,800 tons displacement each and can carry about 2,000 tons if they are not going to run up on a beach. The Chinese prefer to avoid that, as it eventually destroys the LST, and you can carry more load if you don't. A larger number of LSMs (smaller than LSTs, but in this case almost as large as World War II LSTs) are also under construction. China won’t say what the eventual size of this amphibious fleet will be, but Taiwan suspects enough to land two or more divisions on Taiwanese beaches. That could take another 3-4 years. It is believed that the Chinese would use a lot of civilian transport for an attack on Taiwan, meaning they could put up to nine divisions on shops. The navy's amphibious shipping would be used for the first wave, where speed is needed. But the next waves could be put ashore with civilian ferries and transports. In addition, there is an airborne division. It would be a rather ramshackle effort by American standards, but the Chinese believe it would be adequate against the Taiwanese. The key to such an invasion is keeping the U.S. Navy out of the war.

Nine divisions? That's quite a bit. But nobody could pull off a half baked invasion across the sea if they lack naval and air superiority and have to rely on civilian shipping to move their army, right? I mean, we have specialized amphibious ships in recognition of the difficulties of such operations. Surely everybody else agrees with our assessments and methods? What's that? What about the German invasion of Norway in 1940? Well golly, I guess that is one model for China to invade Taiwan.

The Strategypage article also notes that to hold off the US Navy, the Chinese are building submarines and surface warships at a rate to be ready by 2010.

As I've said before, I think the Chinese are aiming to nail Taiwan before the 2008 Peking Olympics.

Those patient Chinese aren't waiting for the fullness of time to grant them their highest political objective. The Chinese will attempt to take Taiwan by force and talk of slow missile blockades distracts us from the possibility that China will storm the island and try to end that war before we can react effectively. Time is running out for us to prepare to fight such a war. Hopefully, if we are prepared well enough, the Chinese will put off the invasion long enough for the Taiwanese to gain the ability to stop the Chinese on their own.

UPDATE: Jeff at Caerdroia notes that ultimately Taiwan will need nuclear weapons to hold the Dragon off. I don't think we could afford to supply them. We couldn't keep this secret and amazingly enough the very same people who think we should accept nukes in the hands of our enemies get their panties in a royal twist when they think of our allies with nukes. Taiwan has the ability to make nukes and delivery systems. Could they do it secretly? I bet Peking spends a lot of effort looking for signs of going nuclear.