A U.S. military presence on Taiping Island or on Taiwan itself would be a serious provocation for China.
The National Interest
Date: September 2, 2020
By: Stratfor Worldview Follow @Stratfor on TwitterL
Here's What You Need To Remember: Access to Taiping would give the United States greater mobility in the South China Sea, as well as provide ammunition for rivals such as Vietnam or the Philippines to undermine Beijing's territorial claims.
Enhanced security cooperation between Taiwan and the United States could easily expand as the pair work to balance against China's increased military presence in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. On Nov. 5, Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa told legislators that his government would consider allowing the U.S. Navy access to Taiping Island if Washington requested it. The remark is by no means conclusive, though Yen emphasized that the United States could be granted access for humanitarian or regional security operations if they aligned with Taiwan's interests.
Allowing the United States access to the island would further challenge the status quo at a time when the U.S. Navy is stepping up its presence in the Taiwan Strait. Over the past few months, U.S. warships have twice passed through the Taiwan Strait in a possible attempt to standardize patrols there or even pave the way for an aircraft carrier group to transit through. And in October, a U.S. Navy research ship docked in Taiwan's southern port city of Kaohsiung for refueling. Moreover, Taiwanese media has speculated that U.S. vessels will dock in Taiwan as part of naval exercises that are expected to occur in the region this month. However, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson declined to confirm or deny such a possibility.
0Taiping, one of two islands Taiwan controls in the South China Sea, is the largest naturally occurring Spratly Island; 1.4 kilometers long and 400 meters wide (.87 miles and .25 miles, respectively). The island sits 1,600 kilometers away from Taiwan in the South China Sea Basin, and bears strategic importance as an ideal location from which to secure sea lanes and establish a presence in the disputed region. Thanks to its strategic location and resources — Taiping possesses ample fisheries and is the only one of the Spratly Islands with an indigenous supply of fresh water — the island has served as an important logistics base. [FULL STORY]