While the war in Ukraine drags on, officials in the U.S. are reportedly concerned that the backlog of weapon deliveries to Taiwan may be hurting Washington’s long-term “porcupine doctrine” strategy to adequately arm Taipei against China, before a possible Chinese invasion.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that cited the U.S. government and congressional officials, the backlog of deliveries to Taiwan has now reached $18.7 billion from $14 billion in December 2021. These include two delivery backlogs, one for 208 Javelin antitank weapons, and another for 215 surface-to-air Stinger missiles.
While the agreement for both was done in December 2015, neither of the two has reportedly been delivered to Taipei.
It was reported in September that at a time when tensions in the Taiwan Strait had reached their highest in years, Washington’s focus on delivering arms to Ukraine hampered Taiwan’s plans to ramp up its military capabilities to stave off a possible attack from China.
Unlike in the case of Ukraine, Taiwan cannot be effectively equipped with weapons after Chinese forces invade the island nation. Hence, officials are concerned about the backlog in weapon deliveries due to Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia.
Exacerbating these challenges are production difficulties faced by the U.S. defense industry. The WSJ report highlights how Washington may be running out of time to arm Taiwan adequately to pursue the “porcupine doctrine” strategy to defend itself against a possible Chinese invasion.
Proposed by U.S. Naval War College research professor William S. Murray in 2008, the “porcupine doctrine” advocates an asymmetric warfare strategy for Taiwan. Murray argued that China’s military modernization had fundamentally altered Taipei’s security choices, making it almost impossible for Taiwan to counter Chinese military strengths in a symmetrical manner.
Hence, the “porcupine doctrine” strategy focuses on reinforcing Taiwan’s defenses in a way that even if China perceives Taiwan “could be attacked and damaged” but realizes that it cannot be “defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks” for Beijing.
According to the WSJ report, the State Department and Pentagon have not acknowledged the delay in weapon deliveries. But, the WSJ report refers to the Annual Report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional auditing and monitoring body that has highlighted the delays in the delivery of weapons such as Stingers and Paladin self-propelled howitzer artillery.
“The diversion of existing stocks of weapons and munitions to Ukraine and pandemic-related supply-chain issues has exacerbated a sizeable backlog in the delivery of weapons already approved for sale to Taiwan, undermining the island’s readiness,” the report released in mid-November read.
While officials in Washington acknowledge delays in weapon deliveries to Taiwan, according to the WSJ report, they point out that this procurement is all new off the production line. But, the Stingers and Javelins being supplied to Ukraine are from existing stockpiles within the U.S. arsenal.
“We continue to diligently work to provide capabilities to Taiwan as fast as possible while also making sure Ukraine can defend itself against Russian aggression,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said in a statement, as quoted by the outlet.
Despite Washington’s assurance of supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” concerns have been raised that the U.S. will not be able to maintain the supply of high-end ammunition to Ukraine indefinitely.