Taiwan Strait War Could Disrupt Underwater Internet Cables, Costly Ship Disruption: Report
A war between China and Taiwan could result in a rupture of underwater communications cables and costly delays in moving shipping containers through the region, according to a think-tank report released on Monday.
The report warns that the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army, has “planned extensively” for an invasion of the self-governing island nation some 100 miles off the coast of mainland China.
“The potential impact on the U.S. economy of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is far greater than that of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said the report from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “Container shipments to and from major ports in the region and digital flows would be directly at risk.”
The report is based on an open-source analysis of Chinese data, revealing hundreds of potential targets, including both military installations and key digital infrastructure such as undersea cable landing stations.
As part of an attack on Taiwan, the PLA could cut undersea cables or attack land bases to disrupt both civilian and military data and communications.
The target points were identified by New Kite Data Labs, which they sourced from an unprotected Chinese Internet Protocol address owned by Hangzhou Alibaba Advertising Co. Ltd. identified by cybersecurity analysts as a bogus ISP operating over a million IP addresses for third parties. party user.
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“This evidence could point to the type of documentation PLA collects, and it underscores the risks to U.S. trade in goods and digital trade to and through Taiwan in the event of a straits crisis,” the report said.
The IP address has been linked to several cybersecurity incidents targeting the United States between October 2019 and October 2021, including the Mirai malware attack, which used software to infect smart devices and turn them into remote “bots” that could be used Hackers large “denials” launched the service” cyber attacks.
China database contains 294,100 points of interest or potential destinations in Taiwan with latitude, longitude, postal address, phone numbers and other information.
Not all are likely to be of military interest. However, scattered across the database are the locations of key Taiwanese military facilities and public infrastructure that are “strategically important and vulnerable in a kinetic conflict,” the report said.
A total of 183 sites were military bases, schools and camps. Listed were the Taiwan Navy Ammunition Depot known as the Haifeng Brigade and the Military Police Command Headquarters.
The Chinese have also identified 341 transport destinations, including airports, train stations and seaports. The information and communications technology targets include 550 potential sites, including telecom hubs and Internet service providers and submarine cable landing stations, including facilities of Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, the headquarters of Qualcomm Taiwan Corp. and other service provider offices.
A total of 2,397 government sites were included, including the National Security Bureau, Taiwan’s main intelligence agency, and a village government office on Orchid Island, east of the main island of Taiwan.
“That [points of interest] are extensive, and their locations are scattered across Taiwan’s territory, including in areas that are sparsely populated,” the report said. “The data suggests that at least one Chinese entity, possibly a government-affiliated entity, is paying close attention to a variety of economically and militarily critical locations on the island.”
Tensions between China, Taiwan and the United States rose this month following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Chinese forces conducted large-scale drills that analysts say appeared in preparation for an attack on the self-governing island that China claims is part of its territory.
Two US Navy cruisers crossed the Taiwan Strait on Sunday to show their support for a key US regional ally. However, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan did not make a passage through the 100-mile-wide strait, as some US officials thought likely. The Reagan was stationed south of Taiwan in the Philippine Sea a few days ago.
According to the report, the impact of a conflict or a Chinese blockade on Taiwan would hit every major economy and hurt the US economy.
Taiwan is also a central stopping point for undersea transoceanic cables that carry Internet and telephone traffic.
According to the report, Taiwan is connected with 15 underwater fiber optic cables that come ashore at three land stations in Taiwan.
“These landing stations connect high-performance cables in which U.S. technology companies have made significant investments,” the report said. “For example, the Pacific Light Cable Network is owned by Google and Meta and became operational in January 2022.”
Undersea cables are not clearly protected under international law, making them vulnerable targets in a conflict.
The report estimated that disrupting Taiwan’s digital communications would cost the island’s economy $55.63 million a day, or $1.69 billion a month.
According to the report, diverting the massive container shipping currently crossing the Taiwan Strait would increase both insurance and transportation costs by tens of millions of dollars for each vessel.
Vital shipping to the United States, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam would be forced to chart new routes to avoid a cross-strait conflict.
“The cost of rerouting all traffic around the Strait of Malacca has been estimated at US$279 million per month (if rerouted through Indonesia) and $2.82 billion per month (if rerouted through Australia),” it said in the report.
The report did not address the impact on the global economy caused by a war in Taiwan through a disruption of computer microchips, a major Taiwanese export and an item normally transported by air.
According to the report, air traffic, like shipping, would be disrupted by a Taiwan conflict.
The report, “Undersea Cables and Container Shipping: Two Imminent Risks to the US Economy as China Invades Taiwan,” was authored by Christine McDaniel and Weifeng Zhong.
The New York Times reported this week that China is working on ways to blockade Taiwan, cutting off the island from its efforts in the event of a conflict.
The recent war games have shown that the PLA can encircle Taiwan with military might. The PLA fired 11 missiles over and near the island, US officials said in an attempt to coerce and intimidate the Taiwanese government.
But the PLA’s ability to stage a full-scale invasion of Taiwan now is not clear.
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