US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that American troops would defend Taiwan if China attacked the island.
And despite the Chinese preparing for years to be able to fight the US if a conflict breaks out, analysts and observers believe the US still has the upper hand.
“Hopefully, both sides… decide that a conflict isn’t worth it. If it comes to it, though, I think you’ll see militaries that are fairly evenly matched, though I would say the US currently has an edge,” said Aaron Mehta, the editor-in-chief at US-based Breaking Defense.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been on the rise in recent years, especially as China attempts to cement its role as a so-called world power.
These strains were further exacerbated after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied Beijing’s threats and visited Taiwan earlier this year. Following her trip, multiple US lawmakers followed suit, drawing the ire of China.
And at the beginning of the month, the US announced a new arms package to Taiwan worth more than $1 billion, including anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles.
Asked about the latest sale, Mehta said Washington’s tone toward Beijing has become more aggressive over the last five years as China became more aggressive.
“With this latest package that was approved by [the State Department], you saw a kind of focus on missiles. And I think that’s something that we’re going to see more and more of,” Mehta told Al Arabiya in a recent interview. “These are weapons that would be used by Taiwan against Chinese vessels in an invasion scenario or to protect its airspace.”
The US was previously hesitant to provide more sophisticated weapons to Taiwan as it tried to maintain a balance between its mandate to supply
Taiwan with defense capabilities and ensure its ties with China did not deteriorate.
It remains to be seen if the US is prepared to permanently change its attitude on the type of weapons it sells to Taiwan.
“We’re going to have to see if this is kind of tip of the iceberg and we start to see more of these things [sales] happening more frequently, or this is more a one-off situation,” Mehta said.
Also irking the Chinese was last year’s alliance between the US, Australia and the UK (AUKUS). As part of the deal, which the countries do not say is specifically aimed at China, Canberra would get at least eight nuclear submarines.
Last week, China complained to the UN nuclear watchdog about the fuel to be used, which uses highly enriched uranium to power the submarines.
Touching on the AUKUS alliance, Mehta said it was not hard to read between the lines and understand that it is specifically about countering Chinese power. “Relations between China and Australia were very tight really until the last couple of years when there became a growing sense that China’s overreach and its demands of Australia,” he said.
Mehta pointed to polls in Australia that show a dramatic shift in Australia’s negative view of China as opposed to five years.
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