• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Evaluation: Worry of the dark: Taiwan sees wartime frailty in communication hyperlinks with planet


Mar 15, 2023

TAIPEI, March 15 (Reuters) – Taiwan is scrambling to safe its communications with the outdoors planet against an attack by China, but even in peacetime can’t speedily repair vital undersea web cables and lacks appropriate satellite backups, professionals and officials say.

China, which has by no means 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, specially against Chinese cyber attacks or attempts to sever any of 14 cables that connect it to the international web.

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

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

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

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

“There is tiny incentive for them (foreign businesses),” he stated. “Regulations need to be changed.”

Defence professionals say that even though 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 specific if he cares much more about China’s industry,” Tzeng stated, 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 prime commanders, which includes the president, according to a single senior government official and a different individual familiar with government efforts.

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

Taiwan’s Ministry of Digital Affairs stated 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 folks who reside there from the web.

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

Chunghwa Telecom switched on a backup microwave method that transmits signals from the prime 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 method and web speed considerably enhanced. But mainly because there are couple of cable repair ships in the area, residents need to wait till late April for web access to be completely restored.

A senior Taiwan official familiar with safety matters stated that sea cable vulnerability has extended been a national safety concern, and that it was “ridiculous” so tiny progress had been produced to address the concern. The individual declined to be named mainly because of the sensitivity of the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

Taiwan’s military has extended ready back-up plans, which includes 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 much more frequent war simulations involving them, Huang stated.

“In a state of emergency, folks will want to get data,” stated Chieh Chung, a military researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a Taipei-primarily based assume tank. “If they can not get data, people’s panic will spread.”

Cutting off communications and causing chaos would not be the only military effects of severing the cables, Huang stated. Taiwan could obtain it tricky 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 stated.

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

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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