US and China could ‘sleepwalk into conflict’ says Lawrence Wong
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China will pay a “heavy price” if it invades Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen warned on Tuesday. Her message to Beijing – which views Taiwan as part of China – coincided with the anniversary of Taipei repelling Chinese attacks on the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen and Matsu in 1958. More than six decades on from the battle, fears have grown of a potential new Chinese attack on Taiwan after China has conducted military exercises off Taiwan in recent weeks, including live-fire drills.
War fears also increased after Beijing reacted angrily to a string of foreign visits to Taiwan, which it says threaten Chinese sovereignty.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Japanese lawmaker Keiji Furuya have all visited Taipei this month, drawing the ire of Beijing.
With the tensions now at boiling point, a US military expert has mapped out what could happen if Taiwan’s allies, the UK and the US fought China and how their navies stack up against their Chinese counterparts.
Dr John Callahan, a military adviser and a dean at New England College in the US, looked at how Britain’s Royal Navy would perform in a conflict against China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “The problem is, they would get swarmed by the Chinese navy.
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“The Chinese navy is actually the biggest Navy in the world right now.
“But that is counting every little patrol craft, the kind of things that you would see putting around Portsmouth Harbour or the Solent, making sure that refugee boats do not come in.
“So, it is quite disingenuous in terms of the numbers.”
China’s navy totals 355 frontline ships that are assembled in three fleets along its coasts, according to the US Defense Department.
In June, Beijing unveiled its third aircraft carrier, the most advanced PLA vessel of its kind to date.
The 80,000-tonne ‘Fujian’ boasts cutting-edge technology such as an electromagnetic catapult-assisted launch system.
But despite China’s naval advancements in some areas, many of its ships are small vessels, relative to the average size of boats in the US Navy, which numbers 305 frontline ships.
Dr Callahan, who is a former diplomat and US State Department spokesperson, explained that if the UK were to take on China on its own, the sheer size of the PLA Navy would overwhelm the British forces.
However, he stressed that in terms of proficiency, the Royal Navy, which totals 73 commissioned ships, is superior to its Chinese equivalent.
He said: “The UK does not really fit in this equation because the UK’s armed forces are so small.
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“But I have no doubt that if the Royal Navy were not overwhelmed it could outfight the Chinese in terms of training and performance no question.”
The expert added: “The British armed forces are quite proficient.
“In a sector where they control the terms of engagement, they would outperform the Chinese. There is no question.
“The problem would be keeping the terms of that engagement small.”
Dr Callahan has been following developments in Taiwan closely, noting how close the situation is to spilling over into war with China.
He explained how, although Beijing has threatened Taiwan with military drills, it remains unclear how the Chinese armed forces would perform in a real conflict.
He said: “It is hard to say how strong they really are for several reasons.
“One is they haven’t fought a real war since the Seventies and Vietnam kicked their butts in that war.”
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