The weeklong hunt ended last week as federal agents traced and captured the alleged perpetrator behind the leaked Pentagon documents. Nonetheless, the mess it made continues to circulate online. Among the confidential materials spread online include sensitive details on the looming fate of Taiwan in case of a future Chinese invasion.

Unprepared for Air Strikes

According to reports, the US classified documents revealed dwindling confidence in Taiwan’s military leaders as they cast doubts over its air defenses capabilities, mainly on the accuracy of detecting missiles. It also highlighted how only half its Air Force fleet could effectively engage enemies.

Unlike Ukraine, which had sufficient air defenses to push back Russia, Taipei would be more tricky with China’s rapid growth in building its air superiority. As a result, the concern bears more significance as it could potentially hinder Taiwan’s ability to advance in defending its sovereignty.

The intelligence report noted the heightened dread of Taiwanese officials on the fate of its aircraft during a future Chinese invasion. Accordingly, they need at least a week to move these assets to shelters, leaving them sitting ducks to missile strikes.

In a Saturday report, The Washington Post elaborated on these troubling assessments of Taiwan’s preparedness. Besides the island country’s air and missile defense system likely getting “strained under high-volume” assault from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Pentagon analysts also noted Taipei’s highly scripted missile warning drills, which could leave both civilians and authorities unprepared for a “real-world event.”

Overall, the leaked document painted a grim picture of Taiwan and its preparedness for future conflict while warning policymakers that China has become increasingly intense in achieving its expansionist ambitions and other unpredictable intentions in the Asia-Pacific region.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has undertaken an aggressive overhaul to modernize the country’s military. Currently, the PLA force is estimated to be at least 14 times the strength of Taiwan’s armed forces. In light of this, the defense ministry of Taiwan told the Post that while it respects outside opinion regarding its military preparedness, it assured that its defense systems are “carefully constructed based on enemy threats” and are “absolutely capable, determined, and confident.”

Restricted to a Verbal Warning

Earlier this week, a clip posted by a pro-Chinese Twitter user emerged and made rounds online, showing a verbal encounter between China’s fighter pilot and Taiwan’s ground control.

In the clip, the ground control crew warned the Chinese pilot as it flew across the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

Translation: “You are entering our airspace. Leave now,” warns Taiwan’s ground control crew. “If you have the guts, open your fire control radars,” the Chinese pilot replies.

Aside from the warning, there’s little-to-nothing the ground control can do, unfortunately. The island country’s armed forces continue to tiptoe around as China’s PLA remains superior in military capabilities.

And, as the leaked Pentagon document suggested, confidence in Taiwan’s ability to retain sovereignty in the event of a future Chinese invasion is dwindling. Not to mention how Taipei is within striking distance of over 40 Chinese air bases. Thus, incidents like these are limited to verbal warnings and less retaliation, or Taiwan would risk escalation.

Despite receiving criticism from the West, China continues to insist on its claim that the island country is a separate province of the mainland and has cited numerous times the historical and cultural ties between the two. Beijing is currently amid its military modernization, but it has reiterated several times that it will retake Taipei in one way or another in the future.

For now, the PLA Air Force conveys this message by crossing Taiwan’s ADIZ repeatedly, which Taiwanese fighter pilots try to intercept, draining the latter’s capabilities.

Nonetheless, this does not imply that Taiwan is doing nothing. Efforts to keep up with the increasing regional tensions include conducting joint military exercises with the United States and other allies and boosting diplomatic activities.

Endless Flexing and Intimidation

Earlier this month, China conducted its three-day military exercises, dubbed “Joint Sword,” where it simulated what appears to be an invasion of Taiwan on day two.

According to reports, PLA Eastern Theatre Command steered dozens of its warships and fighter jets alongside its personnel around all four sides of the island country. Its state-owned broadcast CCTV also reported that the drills have “simulated joint precision strikes against key targets on Taiwan island and surrounding waters.”

By day three, there were about 12 Chinese warships and nearly a hundred aircraft around the island country, 54 of which flew in and out of Taiwan’s southwestern and southeastern ADIZ airspace. It is now the highest recorded in a single day since October 2021.

Furthermore, even after the massive drills concluded, some Chinese warships remained operating, encircling Taiwan.

In a statement, Taipei’s defense ministry said they had spotted about eight vessels still operating in the waters near Taiwan. With this, Taiwan staged its own large-scale emergency response drills where it enacted different scenarios of Chinese aggression, including missile assaults and chemical weapons attacks.