If China finally decides to use force to reunify Taiwan, its objectives will not be to engage in an all-out war with the United States – nor any other country in the region – but to subdue Taiwan with the least cost and least escalation. What follows is an assessment of the cost-benefit calculations that would have to be made in Beijing, Washington, and the capitals of U.S. allies in the region should China’s forceable attempt to reunify Taiwan include taking out specific U.S. military targets in Japan.
In this scenario, Chinese President Xi Jinping chose to take a major risk by launching devastating, large-scale attacks on the U.S. airbase at Kadena on Okinawa and the Sasebo Naval Base in southwest Japan that they could convince Japan, South Korea, and Australia that Beijing had the ability and the will to attack other bases – but that if the three countries agreed merely to deny the U.S. permission to attack China from its bases, no further actions would be taken. This put all three nations under enormous pressure.
Washington immediately called on all three capitols to make good on their mutual security agreements to come to our aid. Many in each country felt obligated to make good on the treaty and argued for their governments to declare war on China. But there were other, major considerations and domestic pressures on the governments of each state.