Taiwan and Japan should confront China’s aggressive maritime and aerial breach of territorial waters of neighboring countries by “making simulated attacks” against the People’s Liberation Army aircraft carrier the Liaoning.
That’s a piece of advice from Dennis Blair, a former US director of national intelligence during the Barack Obama administration.
Blair, who also served as a naval admiral, made the remarks in an article discussing China’s maritime and air activity published on the website of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a Tokyo-based think-tank he chairs.
Blair said Taiwan’s and Japan’s routine response to scramble their warships and vessels to intercept and monitor each and every PLA air and maritime patrol was “wasteful and counterproductive,” as such emergent escorts would use up valuable flying time of aircraft, strain limited budgets but achieve little in terms of military value.
He even said such ritual-like, “intercept everything” policy also risked “creating a pattern of reactions that the PLA could exploit in war.”
There have already been concerns on the issue of wear and tear for Taiwan’s small fighter fleet as its jets have to get airborne each time there is an intruding Chinese warplane, exacerbating the maintenance woes and cutting short these aircraft’s precious flying time.
Blair argued that Taiwanese and Japanese forces should make their response selective, unpredictable and unrevealing of their full capabilities and exercise their right under international law to “occasionally patrol near Chinese territory and ignore Chinese protests.”
Blair then went so far as to suggest that Taiwanese forces take advantage of the Liaoning’s presence to carry out mock attacks against the carrier, raising their own readiness and revealing the reality that the Chinese carrier is vulnerable under wartime conditions.
The Liaoning – a refurbished aircraft carrier – has participated in 10 patrols and drills near Taiwan, four of which occurred this year, including a launch and recovery exercise in the Pacific.
In a response to media inquiries, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said the military’s ground-based missile batteries, warships and fighters were well armed with the domestically made Hsiung Feng and US-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles that can pose significant deterrence to any Chinese warships intruding into Taiwan’s coastal areas.
In 2001, Blair was in command at the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii when a US spy plane and a Chinese interceptor fighter jet collided in midair, resulting in the death of a Chinese crew member and the emergency landing of the US aircraft, whose 24 crewmen were detained in Hainan for 10 days. Blair played a key role in negotiating the release of US airmen.