If China were to invade Taiwan, it would likely fail.

But the costs to the US and Japan in defending the island would be enormous, according to a Washington think tank.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has run war game simulations around a possible conflict in 2026 to discover the most likely outcome of the People’s Republic of China invading Taiwan.

In the most likely scenario, the Chinese invasion “quickly founders” but it comes at a high cost to all involved.

“The United States and its allies lost dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and tens of thousands of service members,” the CSIS report said of the hypothetical war, adding that the US global position would be damaged for “many years”.

Taiwan would be left with “a damaged economy on an island without electricity and basic services” and China’s “navy is in shambles, the core of its amphibious forces is broken, and tens of thousands of soldiers are prisoners of war”.

Taiwan lives under constant threat of invasion by China, which claims the democratic island as part of its territory, to be taken one day.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened fears China might try something similar and US President Joe Biden has said Washington would defend Taiwan militarily if attacked by China.

The CSIS report listed four conditions for a scenario where China is defeated.

Taiwanese ground forces must hold the line and not surrender before US forces arrive, the US must be able to use its bases in Japan for combat operations, and the US must be able to strike the Chinese fleet rapidly and en masse from outside the Chinese defensive zone.

Japan is described as “the linchpin” because US attack aircraft would need to use the US bases in the country.

Another key condition for China to be defeated is that Taiwan must have everything it needs from the US before the war starts.

The report said the “Ukraine model” where the US and NATO are able to send massive amounts of equipment and supplies to Ukraine during the war cannot be replicated.

“ … because China can isolate the island for weeks or even months,” it said.

The report warns that a conflict involving the US and China would not happen in a vacuum.

“The stakes involved would be so great and the economic disruption so widespread that every country on the planet would react,” the report said.

The CSIS’ prediction for Australia is that the country would give “access, basing, and overflight” to the US.

“Australian forces would participate in the South China Sea fight but be unavailable as a result for operations around Taiwan,” it said.

One of the three project leaders, Mark Cancian, told CNN the 24 war game simulations done by the CSIS were needed because previous government and private war simulations have been too narrow or not transparent enough to give the public a true look at how the conflict could play out.

“There’s no unclassified war game out there looking at the US-China conflict,” he said.

“Of the games that are unclassified, they’re usually only done once or twice.”

During the simulations, Bloomberg reported retired US generals and navy officers and former Pentagon officials “hunched like chess players” alongside CSIS analysts, “moving forces depicted as blue and red boxes and small wooden squares over maps of the Western Pacific and Taiwan”.

Why China invading Taiwan is a real threat

Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan under President Xi Jinping as relations have deteriorated.

One of the pressure tactics China has increasingly used is probing Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) with its warplanes.

In 2022, there were more than 1700 such incursions compared with 969 in 2021 and 146 in 2020.

About a fortnight ago, Taipei’s defence ministry said China deployed 71 warplanes in weekend military exercises around Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army, China’s principal military force, said it had conducted a “strike drill” in response to unspecified “provocations” and “collusion” between the US and Taiwan.

Data from Taiwan’s defence ministry showed those drills were one of the largest since they started releasing daily tallies.

In a post on Twitter, Taiwan said 60 fighter jets took part in the drills, including six Su-30 warplanes, some of China’s most advanced.

Moreover, 47 of the sorties crossed into the island’s ADIZ, the third-highest daily incursion on record, according to AFP’s database.

Beijing has been incensed by US President Joe Biden’s handling of Taiwan.

The US has stepped up support for Taiwan including a bill this month that authorised $US10 billion ($A14.5 billion) in military aid, to which Beijing expressed “strong opposition”.

Tensions peaked in August during US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, with the People’s Liberation Army staging huge military drills around the island in protest.

– with AFP

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