April 28, 2010:
In an unusual move, the Taiwanese Air Force invited journalists to view a training exercise related to a possible Chinese attack. The air force officials pointed out the obvious, that Taiwanese air bases would be prime targets for Chinese bombers and ballistic missiles. The air force exercise involved showing how well the engineers were trained and equipped to repair airstrips that had been hit by Chinese bombs and warheads, and how pilots were also trained to operate from damaged airstrips.
What Taiwanese commanders won't discuss is the many other aspects of a Chinese attempt to forcibly make Taiwan part of China. This would have to involve dealing with the many small islands in the waters between Taiwan and China. Any Chinese plan to invade Taiwan would probably ignore the well publicized Kinmen and Matsu islands (only a few kilometers from the mainland). But a group of larger islands, the Pescadores, are within artillery range of Taiwan itself. The Pescadores have an area of only 127 square kilometers, and a population of 90,000. There is a military garrison on the island, which includes an armored brigade, lots of infantry, anti-aircraft missiles and mobile anti-ship missile units. The Pescadores are doubly important, as they are opposite the most important landing beaches on Taiwan. Any invasion force must seize a port as soon as possible, in order to bring in more troops and supplies. You dont have much chance of conquering the island until youve done that. The two best landing areas, for seizing nearby ports, are in the northwest and southwest regions of Taiwan. The better of the two is in the southwest, where the ports of Kaohsiung and Tsinan are near the landing beaches. Those beaches are also near the Pescadores islands.
If China uses some of its airborne and amphibious forces to take the Pescadores, they will have a base for the next stage of the operation; the landing on Taiwan itself. But it is likely that speed will be the most important element. The faster the Chinese establish themselves on Taiwan, the better their bargaining position with the United States, and the rest of the world. If China does not win a quick victory, the economic sanctions start kicking in. Billions of dollars of cancelled orders from the United States and Europe put millions of Chinese out of work, and make the invasion very unpopular. Should the invasion prove unsuccessful as well, a change in Chinese leadership is likely to quickly follow. One way or another, the Pescadores islands will play a major role in any assault on Taiwan.