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14 Mar, 2023 00:14

Ex-US official suggests US could destroy Taiwan chip plants

Washington would raze the high-tech factories rather than let China capture them, a former national security chief has told Semafor
Ex-US official suggests US could destroy Taiwan chip plants

Washington is so determined to prevent China from seizing control of Taiwan’s semiconductor industry that it would destroy the chip factories in the event of an “invasion” by Beijing’s forces, former US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said on Monday.

“The United States and its allies are never going to let those factories fall into Chinese hands,” O’Brien told the online media outlet Semafor. Allowing China capture the plants would make the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “like the new OPEC of silicon chips,” enabling it to “control the world economy,” he added. 

O’Brien, who served as national security adviser under President Donald Trump from 2019 to January 2021, didn’t specify whether it was official US policy at any point to raze Taiwanese semiconductor factories to deter Beijijng. Asked whether the plants would really be “gone” in such a scenario, he said, “I can’t imagine they’d be intact.”

Taiwan’s TSMC is the world’s dominant maker of advanced computer chips, supplying around 90% of the most cutting-edge semiconductors globally. President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to block China’s efforts to become a bigger player in the chip industry, restricting exports of chips and semiconductor-making equipment. Washington considers China’s technological advancement a threat to US national security.

Chinese officials have argued that the US “weaponization and politicization” of science and technology won’t stop their country’s progress. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has predicted that such tactics will “isolate and backfire” on the US.

A US Army War College paper in 2021 argued that Taiwan should threaten to sabotage its chip plants to deter Beijing.

“Even if China got ahold of the golden hen, it won’t be able to lay golden eggs,” Chin Ming-tong, director-general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, said last October, suggesting that Beijing wouldn't be able to operate the factories anyway. 

Beijijng considers Taiwan to be part of its sovereign territory and has vowed to peacefully reunify with the island, while reserving the right to use military force if necessary. Tensions in the region have escalated to the point that the Taiwanese Defense Ministry reportedly plans to focus its spending this year on preparing for a “total blockade” of the Taiwan Strait by Chinese forces.