March 29, 2023 10:04 pm

TAIPEI, March 15 (Reuters) – Taiwan is scrambling to safe its communications with the outdoors globe against an attack by China, but even in peacetime can not immediately repair vital undersea net cables and lacks appropriate satellite backups, specialists and officials say.

China, which has in no way renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan beneath its handle, has ramped up military and political efforts to force the democratically governed island to accept its sovereignty.

The Ukraine war has lent new urgency to Taiwan’s efforts to bolster its safety, in particular against Chinese cyber attacks or attempts to sever any of 14 cables that connect it to the international net.

“Strategic communications, internally and externally, is what keeps us up at evening, especially in the aftermath of Ukraine,” mentioned Tzeng Yisuo, an analyst at Taiwan’s best military consider tank, the Institute for National Defence and Safety Study.

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Taiwan has zeroed in on low-Earth orbit satellites as a remedy, and has launched a two-year trial programme to increase net solutions by leaning on international satellite providers.

Taiwan’s total satellite bandwidth is about .02% of what its undersea cables supply, according to Kenny Huang, chief executive at Taiwan Network Facts Center, the island’s net domain manager.

Huang mentioned Taiwan has struggled to attract interest from international satellite firms since of strict regulations on ownership, which limit foreign shares to a maximum of 49%, and a lack of economic sweeteners.

“There is small incentive for them (foreign firms),” he mentioned. “Regulations need to be changed.”

Defence specialists say that despite the fact that Taiwan can draw lessons from Ukraine’s use of Starlink, a satellite network created by Elon Musk’s U.S.-primarily based space exploration corporation SpaceX, they be concerned about relying on a industrial actor with enterprise interests in China.

“Elon Musk, we are not particular if he cares additional about China’s industry,” Tzeng mentioned, referring to Tesla’s sales in China. “We will not place all our eggs in a single basket.”

Taiwan does not personal any Starlink terminals. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan is also strengthening the resilience of wartime communication channels for best commanders, like the president, according to a single senior government official and an additional particular person familiar with government efforts.

“We are taking notes from Zelenskiy,” a senior Taiwan safety official mentioned, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s robust presence on social media.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Digital Affairs mentioned in a statement that it would prioritise Taiwan’s offshore islands for the satellite trial programme and would additional improve the bandwidth for microwave communications with outlying islands by year-finish. The ministry did not comment on sea cables or repairing them.


Taiwan’s vulnerability was thrown into concentrate final month when the two undersea cables connecting the Taiwan-controlled Matsu islands, which sit close to the Chinese coast, have been reduce, disconnecting the 14,000 people today who reside there from the net.

Authorities mentioned that their initial findings show a Chinese fishing vessel and a Chinese freighter brought on the disruption, but that there was no proof Beijing deliberately tampered with the cables. China’s Taiwan Affairs Workplace did not straight away respond to a request for comment.

Chunghwa Telecom switched on a backup microwave technique that transmits signals from the best of a mountain in Taipei to Matsu, but that only restored about five% of the bandwidth that the cables had supplied.

This month, the government upgraded the technique and net speed substantially enhanced. But since there are handful of cable repair ships in the area, residents need to wait till late April for net access to be completely restored.

A senior Taiwan official familiar with safety matters mentioned that sea cable vulnerability has lengthy been a national safety concern, and that it was “ridiculous” so small progress had been produced to address the concern. The particular person declined to be named since of the sensitivity of the matter.

“We can not even repair sea cables on our personal,” the official mentioned.

Lii Wen, who leads the Matsu branch of the ruling Democratic Progressive Celebration, described the February outage as a “warning” to Taiwan.

“These days, it really is Matsu’s sea cables that broke,” he mentioned. “What if a single day all 14 of Taiwan’s undersea cables connecting us to the outdoors globe break? Will we be adequately ready?”

China will almost certainly take aim at Taiwan’s sea cables or the cable landing stations just before an all-out attack, specialists say, a move that would trigger panic, paralyse industrial activity, and assist Beijing get handle more than the international narrative.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Workplace did not respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan’s military has lengthy ready back-up plans, like a fibre-optic network for communications inside Taiwan, satellites, higher-frequency radio, and microwave systems.

The effect on civilians would be serious regardless, and authorities are reinforcing Taiwan’s 4 entry points for international sea cables and operating additional frequent war simulations involving them, Huang mentioned.

“In a state of emergency, people today will want to get information and facts,” mentioned Chieh Chung, a military researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a Taipei-primarily based consider tank. “If they can not get information and facts, people’s panic will spread.”

Cutting off communications and causing chaos would not be the only military effects of severing the cables, Huang mentioned. Taiwan may well come across it tough to calibrate a response to such a move that an aggressor could not use to justify an all-out attack.

“So the very first step (for China) – with about 99 % likelihood – is to reduce our sea cables,” Huang mentioned.

Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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