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Nuclear escalation in a Taiwan Strait crisis?

Nuclear weapons Relations with China International relations Taiwan

In this report, the author analyses the different scenarios that could trigger a nuclear war in the Taiwan strait and how it can be avoided.

The author notes that many of the ingredients are in place for a Taiwan Strait crisis to precipitate a nuclear escalation and reviews background factors such as strategic factors and operational problems that could give rise to such a catastrophe as well as the reasons why nuclear escalation might be regarded as unlikely. These include but are not limited to:

  • Political tensions between Beijing and Taipei over Taiwan’s future coupled with growing great power competition and distrust between China and the United States;
  • Shifting asymmetries of military power between China and Taiwan, and between China and the United States, creating incentives for escalation;
  • Difficulties in ensuring firebreaks between conventional military options and attacks that involve or risk nuclear capabilities;
  • Brittle political communications between Washington and Beijing coupled with problems in securing military-military dialogue (including the planned Military Maritime Consultative Agreement meeting in 2020).
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