VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism • www.cpaml.org
At the end of January, a memo written by US General Mike Minihan, was obtained by media outlet, NBC News. The contents were a non-classified military intelligence assessment that US and China would be at war within two years: the reasoning was clearly wide of the mark and highly speculative, identifying Taiwan's presidential elections scheduled for 2024 which coincide with similar elections in the US. Problems would arise. The memo then 'told operational commanders to make ready for combat'. (1)
The US has had concerns about 'the growing imbalance of power across the Taiwan Straits', for many years. (2) They fear China may attempt to invade the small island, which is regarded by Beijing as a renegade province. The US, however, is bound to defend Taiwan and is closely linked to the defence and security of the island, although in practical terms has difficulty due to geographical distances and logistics. It has, therefore, increasingly relied on regional allies nearer to Taiwan to make decisive defence and security measures.
The US has also increasingly relied upon regional allies for military intelligence about the rise of China, which has been assessed as a major threat to traditional US hegemonic positions.
Over a decade ago a statement from the US Congressional Research Service noted the Pentagon was 'laying the foundations for a region-wide missile-defence system … relying on … Japan, South Korea and Australia'. (3) The announcement coincided with an official media release from the Pentagon that they were beginning to transform their Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) with 1,600 new 'collectors' in sensitive positions around the world; as the Indo-Pacific has become a major preoccupation for the US, it would not be difficult to establish where many of the assessors reside and are employed. (4)
Later, upgraded US military intelligence facilities included the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) and their General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) elevated Japan to become a major hub for 'US interests'. (5) It has been noted the new US-Japan alliance has already become the 'linchpin of Japan's foreign policy'. (6)
The IPS subsequently created a network on lower-level partners, linked to the Quad, which have included Taiwan. (7) A substantial proportion of the nearly five hundred staff based in the American Institute in Taipei, who remain on temporary leave from the US State Department in Washington, are thought to be involved with the GSOMIA. (8)
It is also interesting to note Taipei exists on an arc which includes Guam and Japan, revealing the significance of including Taiwan with the GSOMIA. (9)
And Guam remains a centre for major US regional operations; it is regarded as 'a more preferable lily-pad for US interests', and hub, 'in the event of an invasion', in unspecified locations. (10)
The Minihan intelligence assessment was also timed to coincide with a number of other significant developments.
Last month the US military formally opened Camp Blaz on Guam, with facilities for 5,000 marines transferred from Okinawa to 'disperse and strengthen its forces around the Pacific'. (11) The military base, jointly funded by the US and Japan as part of their new alliance, had a budget allocation of $11.5 billion. (12) The transfer of US marines to Guam is scheduled for next year, coinciding with the presidential elections in both Taiwan and the US. (13)
At the end of January, the US announced it was planning 'increased access to important bases in the Philippines ... utilising Philippine military bases … as they were a more … favourable location to carry out operations … in … Taiwan and the South China Seas'. (14)
A major upgrade for US facilities on the northern Mariana Islands chain at Tinian has included those associated with the use of heavy military aircraft; situated at about 120 kms north-east of Guam, the new facilities were designed for use in a secondary capacity in conjunction with those on Guam. (15)
The US military-industrial complex has clearly been preparing for real-war scenarios in the Indo-Pacific for years, to bolster their declining domestic economic problems and counter the threat China has posed to their traditional hegemonic presence in the region.
Two further important diplomatic factors, however, reveal how deeply flawed the Minihan assessment has been.
China responded immediately with accusations General Minihan was behaving 'recklessly' and was warned about providing a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. (16) An earlier statement issued by China about the Taiwan Straits included reference to the recent failure by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to retain electoral support in local elections at the end of last year. Much of the increased diplomatic hostilities between China and Taiwan date to the election of President Tsai Ing-wen and members of her administration who have openly called for moves toward independence; Tsai Ing-wen's administration is also closely linked to right-wing forces in the US and their allies, particularly those associated with the former Trump administration in the White House.
The DPP, however, has been plagued with numerous scandals including corruption, bribery and nepotism; the ruling party lost large numbers of municipal seats in recent local elections and experienced declining popularity. (17) President Tsai Ing-wen immediately stepped down from the chair of the DPP to distance herself from the ensuing controversy.
Political developments have not gone as the US planned; all signs appear to point to the opposition KMT possibly winning presidential elections next year, if they can maintain the political momentum and transmit support for local issues into national agendas.
The KMT are regarded by China as more favourable to mutually beneficial diplomatic and trade relations and the restoration of the Taipei-Shanghai Forum. (18) If so, the US will be faced with a difficult situation whereby a presidential administration in Taipei will not want US interference with its Cold War diplomatic and trade relations with China.
And the Pentagon, which would appear bitterly politically divided like every other government department in the US, announced officially to world media outlets that, 'General Minihan's analysis was not representative of the department's view on China'. (19)
No reference, however, was provided to whose interests Minihan was thought to serve, although as a former deputy commander of the Indo-Pacific Command during the final part of the former Trump administration he was obviously politically acceptable to those concerned which also included the corporate sector of the military-industrial complex.
1. China says general's call on war in 2025 'reckless', Australian, 31 January 2023.
2. See: US seeks new Asia defences, The Wall Street Journal, 24-26 August 2012.
4. Pentagon plays the spy game, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012.
5. The reasons behind Washington's push for GSOMIA., Hankyoreh, 12 November 2019.
6. US Marines, CNN., 27 January 2023.
7. Hankyoreh, op.cit., 12 November 2019.
8. Beijing keeps a wary eye on new US Taipei outpost, Australian, 18 June 2018.
9. See: Peter Projection, World Map, Actual Size.
10. Guam won't give up more land, Prism, 4 June 2021; and, New US base on Guam, The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2023.
11. US Marines, CNN., 27 January 2023.
12. 2024 transfer of Okinawa marines, The Kyodo News, 9 December 2022.
14. US is planning, The Republicworld.com, 31 January 2023.
15. The US Air Force, The National Interest, 12 February 2021.
16. Australian, op.cit., 31 January 2023.
17. See: Taiwan local elections say no to DPP rule, call for peace, The Global Times, 28 November 2022.
19. China warns: stop meddling in Taiwan, Australian, 1 February 2023.