Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper believes Taiwan is not ready to take on China in a possible war and suggests that the island nation should learn from the resilience of Ukraine.
“Well, they’re not prepared enough,” Esper said about Taiwan in his interview with Bloomberg.
Esper said the worst-case scenario for Taiwan is a Chinese amphibious invasion.
The former defense secretary, who served under former President Donald Trump, said China could also launch a blockade around the island, cutting off Taiwan’s access to the world.
But despite his bleak assessment of Taiwan, Esper said the nation should dramatically increase its defense budget, extend the military conscription for at least up to one year, and improve the training of its reservist force to catch up with China’s military might.
“I outlined a number of things that I thought they needed to do, which included increasing dramatically the defense budget, adopting an asymmetric warfare defensive approach, increasing conscription for at least up to a year, and then stockpiling food and weapons. Improving the training of the reserves,” Esper said. “A number of things. They seem to be on that path.”
Esper welcomed the U.S.’ weapon and training assistance to Taiwan while underscoring the need to establish a solid coalition of Western countries to counter Chinese aggression.
The former defense chief also suggested that Taiwanese people should emulate Ukraine’s “stalwart courageous defense” against Russia.
Esper argued that Ukraine is a smaller country compared to Russia, but its military is well-armed and willing to fight, adding to the fact that its people are ready to be mobilized to defend their homeland.
Esper’s remark came after Taiwan reported that it saw China’s largest aerial incursion to date.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Monday that 71 Chinese air force aircraft entered the country’s air defense identification zone in a span of 24 hours.
A senior Taiwan official believed that the latest “provocation” of China was connected to the signing of the new U.S. annual defense budget that includes multibillion-dollar military assistance to the island nation.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen announced that it would extend the compulsory military service from four months to one year beginning in 2024, citing the increasing pressure from China.
Tsai said the current military service is not enough to counter China’s threat, especially if the Chinese military conducted a rapid attack against Taiwan.