The Pesky Pescadores
Discussion of China’s plans to invade Taiwan often ignore the smaller, Taiwan controlled islands, that the Chinese invasion forces will either bypass, or hit first, on their way to Taiwan. The smaller islands, Quemoy and Matsu, are within artillery range of the mainland. But a group of larger islands, the Pescadores, are within artillery range of Taiwan itself. The Pescadores have an area of only 127 square kilometers, and a population of 90,000. There is also a military garrison on the island, including an armored brigade, plus anti-aircraft missiles and mobile anti-ship missile units. The Pescadores are doubly important, as they are opposite the most important landing beaches on Taiwan. Any invasion force must seize a port as soon as possible, in order to bring in more troops and supplies. You don’t have much chance of conquering the island until you’ve done that. The two best landing are areas, for seizing nearby ports, are in the northwest and southwest regions of Taiwan. The better of the two is in the southwest, where the ports of Kaohsiung and Tsinan are near the landing beaches. Those beaches are also near the Pescadores islands. If China uses some of its airborne and amphibious forces to take the Pescadores, they will have a base for the next stage of the operation; the landing on Taiwan itself. But it is likely that speed will be the most important element. The faster the Chinese establish themselves on Taiwan, the better their bargaining position with the United States, and the rest of the world. If China does not win a quick victory, the economic sanctions start kicking in. Billions of dollars of cancelled orders from the United States and Europe put millions of Chinese out of work, and make the invasion very unpopular. Should the invasion prove unsuccessful as well, a change in Chinese leadership is likely to quickly follow. One way or another, the Pescadores islands will play a major role in any assault on Taiwan.A good geography lesson on the problems China would face in taking Tiawan. I think the Tiawan government could slow the assault by mining the harbors and landing beaches. The time taken to clear the mines would give the US and others time to come to their aid.