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‘Make Their Lives Utterly Miserable’: Top U.S. Commander Outlines ‘Hellscape’ Response If China Invades Taiwan


By: Jake Smith, Daily Caller News Foundation

A top U.S. naval commander outlined a “hellscape” American response if China decides to invade Taiwan in an interview with The Washington Post published Monday.

The U.S. maintains a position of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan, not committing to whether it would militarily defend the island in the event of a Chinese incursion. But Navy Adm. Samuel Paparo, the new chief of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), told the Post in an interview that there is a plan to deter China by ensuring that Beijing understands the “utterly miserable” consequences it could suffer if it does launch an incursion.

“[China wants] to offer the world a short, sharp war so that it is a fait accompli before the world can get their act together,” Paparo told the Post. “My job is to ensure that between now and 2027 and beyond, the U.S. military and the allies are capable of prevailing.”

China views Taiwan as a rogue territory that needs to be reunited with the mainland and condemns other countries that view the island as independent. Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the country’s military to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027.

The U.S. strategy in stopping China from launching an invasion is called “Hellscape,” Paparo told the Post. As soon as Chinese forces start moving toward Taiwan, the U.S. military would launch thousands of unmanned surface ships, aerial drones and submarines to surround the island. This would give the U.S., Taiwan and its regional partners enough time to coalesce for a bigger response, Paparo said.

“I want to turn the Taiwan Strait into an unmanned hellscape using a number of classified capabilities,” Paparo told the Post. “So that I can make their lives utterly miserable for a month, which buys me the time for the rest of everything.”

Asked for further details, Paparo was tight-lipped. “I can’t tell you what’s in it. But it’s real and it’s deliverable,” he told the Post.

The Department of Defense announced in March it was committing over $1 billion to its Replicator program, which will build a hive of unmanned aerial drones and surface ships for defenses. The Replicator program is taking cues from the Russia-Ukraine war, Paparo told the Post, as Ukrainian forces have broken new ground in using drone technology to stave off Russian forces.

The U.S. has also poured billions into Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific’s own defenses, most recently signing off on $8 billion in aid for America’s allies in the region in April.

It’s unclear whether the Pentagon would be able to deliver on the Replicator program in time for a possible Chinese invasion, however, according to the Post. And deliveries of military equipment to Taiwan have been long delayed.

For its part, China has been laser-focused on bolstering its military prowess and has increased armed demonstrations around Taiwan in recent years — Paparo told the Post that China’s annual defense budget is likely around $700 billion, three times higher than what Beijing publicly claims. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allocated around $840 billion for defense spending in fiscal year 2024.

China has developed a new hypersonic missile with a “high probability” of evading U.S. countermeasures, according to leaked Pentagon documents from 2023. Beijing has also expanded its cyberwarfare efforts, having penetrated U.S. infrastructure systems such as water or power plants; these breaches could exploit U.S. systems in the event of a Taiwan incursion.

Paparo told the Post that he believes China is operating on a “revanchist, revisionist and expansionist” strategy, musing that it is likely too late to convince Beijing to pursue other options.

“The region has got two choices. The first is that they can submit, and as an end result give up some of their freedoms … or they can arm to the teeth,” Paparo told the Post. “Both cases have direct implications to the security, the freedom and the well-being of the citizens of the United States of America.”

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