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.

Paparo told the Post that the U.S. strategy for stopping China from launching an invasion is called “Hellscape.” 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.

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.


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