AMERICA faces defeat by China in a war over Taiwan in just a week and needs to “urgently” up its preparations, a leading expert has said.
The chilling warning from Oriana Skyler Mastro, an authority on China’s military and US Air Force strategist, comes after years of simulations showing crushing defeats for America.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed unification with the mainland, by force if necessary, while Joe Biden recently promised the US will defend the island.
Taiwan is effectively an independent country, though not recognised by the internationally, but any moves towards full independence will almost certainly lead to war.
Should that happen, Skyler Mastro outlined what she called “a worst case scenario and the one that’s hardest for the United States to deal with”.
And down the years simulations have shown the US facing defeat in a war with China – with some war games showing Beijing “running rings” around them.
Skyler Mastro describes the war beginning with a “massive salvo of missiles” fired by China.
The assault takes out the only effective air base in the region and ends a week later with Chinese forces securely on Taiwan in a war the US could “absolutely” lose.
An attack on Kadena, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, could see the based disabled “in hours” with “60 per cent of the aircraft” lost, explains Skyler Mastro.
What happens next is the attack on Taiwan itself, again with missiles, to target air defences, quickly followed by the main amphibious assault, she said.
They will also launch attacks on the political targets Taiwan to “get the leadership to capitulate”.
When the United States moves to defend Taiwan then China will begin cyberattacks in a bid to disable communications, particularly satellites.
The timeframe for this first phase “if everything goes according to plan, everything I’ve just laid out, it would probably be three days”.
The Chinese aim is not to fight a protracted war with a still technologically superior America “which it will lose” but the taking of Taiwan will represent victory.
“Have they defeated the United States if they take Taiwan before United States can put up a fight?,” she said.
“They can still have an inferior military and still be able to do that.
“They know that if we are able to prevent them landing for two to three weeks before the full might of the US Pacific forces come into play then they’re in trouble, then they can lose.
“If they can get boots on the ground in Taiwan in a week then it’s over.
“And once they’re there then there’s nothing the United States can do to get them off.
“We’re not willing to fight a war at a level that’s needed to get them off the island.”
Why is Taiwan a flashpoint between the US and China?
The dispute over Taiwan stems back to the Chinese civil war, which ended in 1949 with the victory of the Communist Party Mao Zedong.
Taiwan – with a population of just 22 million – was recognised by the as the government of China until 1971 when the mainland took its seat at the United Nations.
China’s deposed leader Chiang Kaishek, who was backed by US, fled with his defeat forces the island of Taiwan, about 100 miles off the coast of the mainland.
Taiwan has since developed an identity of its own and become a thriving democratic country with close ties to the West, in particular the US.
The party led by its current president Tsai Ingwen has independence as its ultimate goal.
But China continues to regard the island has being part of its territory and vowed to reunify it by force if necessary.
Even holding a vote on independence is widely seen as the trigger for war.
To that end China has been pouring billions into modernising its military, including now building a fleet of aircraft carriers to match the US Navy.
That has put the country on a collision course with the United States, its main arms supplier.
President Joe Biden has recently said America will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
In recent years tensions have been rising as US air and naval forces patrol the sea around Taiwan, to China’s intense annoyance.
Chinese warplanes regularly buzz the island while it has stepped up rehearsals for invasion.
The missile attack scenario is also laid out in a new book Defending Taiwanby foreign policy experts Hal Brands and Michael Beckley.
Brands and Beckley warn the “most worrying” scenario would see Beijing attempt to launch a “surprise missile attack” on American forces in Asia.
China has significantly improved its military in the recent years, pouring billions to fulfil president Xi Jinping’s goal of matching the US by 2027.
It recently launched an 100,000 aircraft carrier, the first that matches the power of US Navy for the first time.
Previous war games have show the US could lose a war with China.
In one carried out last year, the Red Team playing the role of the Chinese crippled US communications in the process of winning.
They “ran rings” around their opponents, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Hyten.
In 2019, the US got “its ass handed to it” in a war game carried out by the RAND corporation think-tank.
But while Skyler Mastro says the war games down the years have highlighted “significant vulnerabilities”, the US has still not fully woken up to challenges.
Among the problems a failure to persuade allies in the region to allow US warplanes to be stationed there and missiles that can match China’s.
The ability to quickly get a surge arms production and even shortfalls in ammunition stocks in the region are also issues that need to be addressed, says Skyler Mastro.
“How concerned should we be about the preparations? Very concerned.
“These vulnerabilities have been known for as long as I’ve been doing this – 20 years.
“As much as people talk about the urgency of dealing with them, I don’t see that urgency in practice.”
“At the moment we can’t even persuade the South Koreans to allow us to use US forces based there.”
But while the US tries to grapple with raising its level of preparedness, Beijing’s determination to invade Taiwan remains undimmed.
“China is determined to take back Taiwan Anyone who thinks otherwise are the type of people who thought when the Russians were massing forces on the Ukraine border they were just hanging out.
“This is the number one goal of the Communist party and what it’s military is designed for.
“If you listen to rhetoric and think they’re not going to do this then you don’t know China.”