Cover: Defend Taiwan with Naval Mines

Defend Taiwan with Naval Mines

Published in: Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Volume 149, Issue 2 (February 2023)

Posted on rand.org May 19, 2023

by Scott Savitz

The U.S. military's greatest strategic challenge will be aiding in the defense of Taiwan against the vast capabilities and capacity of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the event of an invasion. China enjoys self-evident geographic advantages in a potential conflict: Its forces will always be concentrated in East Asia, whereas only a fraction of U.S. forces are comparably situated. Given some degree of strategic surprise, the PLA could aim to swiftly seize Taiwan and achieve a fait accompli before the United States and Taiwan could effectively respond. The United States and Taiwan need to be able to slow, disrupt, and attrite PLA invasion forces to prevent such an outcome. The goal should be to provide critical time for more U.S. firepower to be brought to bear, and to reduce the number of PLA forces that need to be either targeted en route or defeated at the water's edge. Naval mines are such a capability, complementing various other weapons. This is not a new idea: There have been numerous writings on the need for Taiwan to develop a "porcupine" strategy to make it less vulnerable to attack, and many have mentioned that mines can play a valuable role.1 Others have focused on the use of mines by the United States without focusing on their use in a potential defense of Taiwan.

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