A security treaty for the East Asia - North Pacific region

Let's first have a quick look at the security situation of the pro-Western countries in East Asia:

Cannot withstand PR Chinese airpower, its navy cannot protect maritime trade lanes against PR Chinese air and sea power, and its rather neglected army is unimpressive. The biggest threat is still the threat of an amphibious invasion, for Taiwan could keep resisting blockade and a non-nuclear bombardment for years. The greatest security hope is that the USN would intervene with its air power and submarine force if the PRC went aggressive, so Taiwan would really only need to resist on its own for maybe a month or two.

It's fairly safe from threats due to geographic separation, but in the long term or over the course of a long war it could face the same situation as Taiwan, albeit Japan is bigger.

South Korea:
It's militarily superior to North Korea in everything except light infantry numbers and nuclear munitions. Russia is not really a threat, but the PRC could be a threat similar as with Japan, or if it intervenes in a war on North Korea's behalf. South Korea could not be defended by its own forces or allied forces against the PRC's military potential due to its continental position. The threat of an amphibious invasion by the PRC's forces -  a reverse Inchon - is relevant and would force South Korea to keep substantial forces in reserve in the event of war.

It is amazingly difficult to find an East Asia map that
shows Taiwan as separate if one uses English keywords.

I suppose the single most de-escalating and peace-preserving measure would be to take the PLAN's amphibious forces out of the equation.

- - - - -

So here's a plan for a security deal for East Asia

People that would need to know about the full plan:
  • President of the United States
  • Premier President of the Republic of China
  • Prime Minister of Japan
Everyone else would be kept ignorant about certain key parts, so that the bluff elements may succeed.

Taiwan and the United States begin talks about selling thousands of Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs, M109 SPHs, M270 MRLs, ten thousands of Javelin missiles as well as about half of the U.S.' Patriot area air defence batteries and land-based SM-6 batteries with hundreds of new production missiles.

Japan and the United States  begin talks about selling land-based SM-6 batteries and hundreds of  F-18E/F/G combat aircraft, dozens of tanker aircraft as well as thousands of cruise missiles.

No doubt the PRC's leadership will proceed to fume and rev up to never-seen-before exasperation.

Weeks later a long-planned bilateral meeting between the presidents of the PRC and USA happens, and all these arms deals become a topic. The POTUS drops a line during this meeting - seemingly spontaneously - about how all these arms deals are all rooted in the PRC's amphibious aggression capability. 'Kind of as your concerns about our military power are mostly about our navy.'

The proposal for a deal arises, similar in spirit to the START treaties of the 80's:
  • Both PRC and USA mothball their entire amphibious fleets* with a bilateral inspection scheme
  • Neither PRC nor the USA buy or build any amphibious warfare ships, nor do they assist or subsidise other countries in building up their inventories of such ships
  • The U.S. doesn't deliver weapons or munitions to Taiwan, and won't deliver any air or naval warfare hardware to Japan.
The consequences would be
  • Taiwan is safer from invasion than it could be even if the USN was full-time focused on defending Taiwan
  • Japan is safer from the PRC
  • South Korea is safer from the PRC
  • Malaysia would be safe from the PRC
  • the PRC could not enforce any trade deals it made with African countries by sending its navy
  • the USA would save approx. USD 10 billion every year, total gains (including manpower transferred to civilian economy for productive employment) would probably exceed USD 20 billion every year
  • less confrontational political climate in East Asia AFTER the deal
  • no substantial downsides

The downside of the plan as a whole - not of a potential treaty - is the temporary heating up of the political climate in the region. An extreme (and unlikely) worst case would be a preventive PRC invasion of Taiwan - a risk that the Premier President of the Republic of China would have to assess before agreeing to the plan.


*: With measures that make it impossible to reactivate more of half of those fleets in less than three months, such as removing the engines from the hulls.

P.S.: Now don't tell me that 'dealmaker' Drumpf is going to do anything remotely similar, please. He already botched the "One China" issue terribly. His attention span would not suffice to read this article.

I don't think that this is necessarily a super-wise policy proposal. It's merely the idea of one man. It's rather the kind of proposal that I think aides to great power leaders should produce - about 40-50 such ideas per year as a creative input for strategic policies. To work out details and do the risk assessment would be an inter-agency team project.


  1. S.O.,

    Interesting take on the issue.

    Is there any particular reason why you think this would be an issue for the R.O.C./Taiwanese Premier rather than the President? Some form of plausible deniability?

    1. Well, I corrected that. My reasoning was that the Premier would suffice and is more close to minister of defence who would have to run the bluff, but a closer look at the powers shows that the President is the one doing foreign policy.
      The key idea was that only very, very few people must know the full plan for it to remain secret enough - or else most bargaining chips created by bluff would be near-worthless.

      BTW, nobody in Taiwan really needs to be in the know if they agree to ask for the sales without knowing the full picture.

  2. A very interesting perspective. The PRC could be "contained" to a more 'soft power' approach in their overall posture, while in the global perspective neither they nor the US would actually loose important influence or policy goals. (Assuming the PRC government does not actually believe taking Taiwan by force is a viable option).

    Just as a thought: do you think a bluff would actually be necessary? Couldn't one just present this idea (via "unofficial channels"?!?), and then explain that it's just going to work one way or the other? That could make it even more viable for PRC leadership (IMHO), as they could claim the US 'concessions' as their own work for a "safe tomorrow" or whatever?!?

    1. I think the large amphibious vessels of the PLAN are too important and the U.S. amphibious forces too little of a threat to the PRC. It takes the extra bargaining chip generated by the bluff to convince them IMO.

  3. In my opinion you underestimate the fears of the chinese in this context. And you give to much pressure to a gouvernment which has in reality an big amount of fear and self-doubt (which it hides acutally behind a mask)this can lead to an attack.

    So the worst case scenario you mentioned for yourself of a pre-emptive war is not so unlikely in my view. The chinese feel acutally realy threatend by the us and other asian states, and it does not matter what is real or not, it is more about feelings and how they influence the irrational thinking of humans.

    Many chinese today even think a war with the us in the next decades is inevitable. They claim, a great eastern-asian war will come in any case and therefore they must prepare for it. This is of cause irrational and not logical, but it is the cultural and political fact and very dangerous, moreover as some politicans in the us thinks the same.

    A self fulfinging prophecy. So a great war in the western pacific is not so unlikeley and therefore everybody should avoid everything that raises the stress - such friction could very easily lead to war much faster than anyone in the today pacifistic war refusing european west can imagine.

    I lived several years in northern china and korea and the people there do not think the way you think - the do not share your western logic approach to warfare and will react much more aggressive and in your view irrational to stress.

    The propability of a great war in the east is high, so the west should avoid anything that can trigger it and especially to become involved in it.

  4. Thank you for covering this hotspot.