Defence

Western media has reported that China has sent hypersonic weapons into orbit. (Internet/CNS/SPH)

What’s real (and not) about China’s hypersonic weapons tests

China’s recent tests of hypersonic weapons has attracted the attention of the West, which is wary about what this rapid progress might mean. On its part, China is downplaying these tests as “routine”, and emphasising that they are helpful to eventually reduce the costs of space technology. Is the US overreacting and playing the “victim”, while having its own agenda?
Soldiers march to position during an anti-invasion drill on the beach during the annual Han Kuang military drill in Tainan, Taiwan, 14 September 2021. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwanese generally think there will not be war, and they are unprepared for it

Surveys show that the Taiwanese think war is unlikely, and they are aware that they are generally not well prepared for it, believing that the US and Japan will come to Taiwan’s assistance if mainland China launches an offensive. But recent comments by the US and Japan seem to suggest that strategic ambiguity is very much in play.
In this file photo taken on 26 September 2020, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (centre) poses for photographs while visiting a turboprop engine factory at a military base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

How the 1992 Consensus could save cross-strait relations

Liu Chin-tsai notes that cross-strait relations are getting more volatile, with calls for armed reunification getting louder. He suggests that the crux of the matter lies in the DPP not acknowledging the 1992 Consensus, which is seen by mainland China as the "magic fulcrum" offering a structural framework and stability for cross-straits talks to take place. However, is it too late for the DPP to adjust its rhetoric and get cross-strait relations back on track?
A US-made CH-47 helicopter flies an 18-metre by 12-metre Taiwan flag at a military base in Taoyuan, Taiwan, on 28 September 28, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Has the US shifted its position on Taiwan, again?

US academic Zhu Zhiqun notes that Beijing’s “one-China principle” has remained largely unchanged while Taiwan’s concept of cross-strait relations has morphed under the DPP to that of Taiwan being already independent. On its part, the US seems to be changing its stance, not least by adding Reagan-era, private assurances to Taiwan to the equation when defining its “one-China policy”. Tough questions need to be answered about how Beijing can curb Taiwan independence without alienating the Taiwanese public, or how the US can support Taiwan’s democracy without encouraging Taiwanese independence and dragging the US into a war with China.
Visitors walk past military aircraft displayed at Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China, 29 September 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China displays its new weapons amid cross-strait tensions

Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan notes that over the past month, China has revealed several new military aircraft, such as stealth fighters and early warning aircraft, as well as a powerful missile system. This is a signal that China is catching up with the US in terms of aircraft technology. Furthermore, the timing of these unveilings might have more than a little to do with the current state of cross-strait relations.
Visitors look at models of military equipment displayed at the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC) booth at Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China, 28 September 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Taiwan and Indo-Pacific are the primary targets of China’s hypersonic glide vehicle

Recent news that China had launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle sounded an alarm. Mastery of such technology would mean that China would gain speed, manoeuvrability and surprise in their response, and the fine balance among nuclear-armed states could be upset. From China’s perspective, their nuclear deterrent would be more credible and they would be better able to defend their interests vis-à-vis Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. No matter the intentions, this might mean rattled nerves and an increased presence of US missile defence systems in the Indo-Pacific.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (right) and Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton stand for their national anthems during an honour cordon at the Pentagon on 15 September 2021 in Arlington, Virginia, US. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/AFP)

With AUKUS in place, now what for key players in the Indo-Pacific?

Former German diplomat Dr Anne-Marie Schleich analyses the impact of AUKUS from the perspective of key players in the region. This development sees important ramifications, not only for Australia, which has further thrown in its lot with the US, but for other stakeholders such as the Pacific island countries, who may see their nuclear-free Blue Pacific blueprint thwarted, as well as the European countries, who must decide how they can maintain a strategic presence in the region within the AUKUS framework.
In this photo taken on 6 August 2021, police officers walk beside the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, as it was known before 1945 and now called the Atomic Bomb Dome, as the city marks the 76th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP)

The real reason why Japan is following the US’s lead

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces Japan’s long-held foreign policy stance of “following the US’s lead”. Circumstances of history led to this default pattern, even though Japan did try to break out of this straitjacket. Domestic opposition aside, under the US's watchful eye, Japan has not been able to possess nuclear weaponry or have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But with the changing situation of a rising China, might Japan move closer to getting what it has always wanted?
Australia's Collins-class submarines at sea, undated. (SPH)

AUKUS: A reflection of ASEAN's inability to cope with China's rising assertiveness?

Southeast Asian responses to the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) technology-sharing agreement, which aims to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, have varied considerably, from warnings that the agreement could trigger an arms race or undermine regional stability to implicit support. While concerns over arms racing and nuclear proliferation are seen by some as being overblown, AUKUS is a response to China’s rapid military modernisation and assertive behaviour in the maritime domain. Thus, AUKUS can be seen as a wake-up call to ASEAN that it needs to be more proactive on security issues and cannot take its centrality for granted.