US President Joe Biden said Sunday American troops would defend Taiwan should China attack the island.
And although the Chinese have been preparing for years to fight the US in the event of a conflict, analysts and observers believe the US still has the upper hand.
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“Hopefully both sides will decide that conflict isn’t worth it. However, when it comes down to it, I think you’re going to see militaries that are fairly balanced, although I would say the US currently has an advantage,” said Aaron Mehta, editor-in-chief of US-based Breaking Defense.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have increased in recent years as China seeks to cement its role as a so-called world power.
Those tensions were further exacerbated after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied Beijing’s threats and visited Taiwan earlier this year. After her trip, several US legislators followed her example, drawing the wrath of China.
And earlier this month, the US announced a new arms package for Taiwan worth more than $1 billion, including anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles.
When asked about the recent sale, Mehta said Washington’s tone toward Beijing has become more aggressive over the past five years as China has become more aggressive.
“With this latest package approved by [the State Department], you saw some kind of focus on missiles. And I think we’re going to see that more and more,” Mehta said in a recent interview with Al Arabiya. “These are weapons that Taiwan would use in an invasion scenario or to protect its airspace against Chinese ships.”
The US has previously been reluctant to supply Taiwan with more sophisticated weapons as it tries to maintain a balance between its supply mandate
Taiwan has defense capabilities and ensures its relationship with China does not deteriorate.
It remains to be seen whether the US is willing to permanently change its stance on the types of weapons it sells to Taiwan.
“We’ll have to see if that’s kind of the tip of the iceberg and we’re starting to see more of those things [sales] more common, or this is more of a one-off situation,” Mehta said.
Also annoying for the Chinese was last year’s alliance between the US, Australia and Great Britain (AUKUS). As part of the deal, which countries don’t say specifically targets China, Canberra would get at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Last week, China complained to the UN nuclear regulator about the use of fuel, which uses highly enriched uranium to power the submarines.
Regarding the AUKUS alliance, Mehta said it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines and understand that it was specifically about countering Chinese power. “Relationships between China and Australia were really very close until in the last few years there was a growing feeling that China was going too far and making its demands on Australia,” he said.
Mehta pointed to polls in Australia showing a dramatic shift in Australia’s negative view of China compared to five years ago.
Read more: China and AUKUS countries argue at IAEA about nuclear submarine plan