China would probably establish air superiority very rapidly in any attack on Taiwan, according to leaked US intelligence assessments that raise disturbing questions about the self-ruled island’s military readiness, media reports said.
The documents emerged as G7 foreign ministers met to discuss a common China strategy and Beijing briefly halted flights over part of the East China Sea on Sunday.
The classified documents seen by the Washington Post reveal that Taiwan’s military leaders doubt their air defences can “accurately detect missile launches” and that only about half of the island’s aircraft are capable of effectively engaging the enemy.
The documents also said Taiwan feared moving its aircraft to shelters could take up to a week, leaving them vulnerable to missile strikes, and that China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes was hampering US intelligence’s ability to predict an invasion, The Guardian reported.
Pentagon analysts concluded China’s air force would find it far easier to establish early air superiority than Russia did in its invasion of Ukraine, it added.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken one day, by force if necessary. Chinese President Xi Jinping has expanded and modernised the People’s Liberation Army and China’s armed forces are thought to be 14 times the size of Taiwan’s.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said in a statement to the Washington Post that it “respects outside opinions about its military preparedness” but its response to recent Chinese military exercises showed officers were “absolutely capable, determined and confident”.
Taiwan last week staged large-scale emergency response drills enacting scenarios including missile and chemical weapons attacks, after China held its latest military exercises around the island, 100 miles (160km) off the Chinese mainland.
Flights out of northern Taiwan were delayed on Sunday morning after China launched a satellite rocket that dropped debris into waters north of the capital, Taipei. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the incident posed no threat to “our nation’s territory”, The Guardian reported.