SpaceX Starlink might be a deterrence to conflict over Taiwan

SpaceX’s Starlink internet service might deter conflict over Taiwan. 

Fumiko Sasaki, an international relations specialist from Columbia University, believes the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in the event of a conflict, might target underwater cables and satellites to disrupt communication between Taiwan and its supporters like the United States and Japan. 

Sasaki explained that Russia took a similar path when it invaded Ukraine. She thinks China may use the same tactic and then deploy conventional weapons. “Just like Russia carried out a cyberattack on ViaSat communication Satellites before its invasion of Ukraine,” she said, as per a South China Morning Post report. 

Disrupting communications is a tactical strategy during war and might provide an advantage in specific scenarios. Starlink service has already proven its mettle in war and helped Ukraine survive such attacks.

In October 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine with over 100 cruise missiles, targeting energy and communications infrastructure. With Starlink internet, Ukraine quickly restored connection to critical areas. Russia’s failed strike on Ukraine’s communications infrastructure hints that attacking communication infrastructure would be difficult for the PLA if Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JDF) decides to use Starlink. 

“The use of Starlink would force the PLA to rethink its offensive strategy, which will take time, giving Japan greater room and more time to strengthen its defenses,” commented Sasaki.

Japan’s SDF has been testing Starlink services with their land, sea, and air forces since March. Sources from the Japanese government stated that the SDF is considering adopting Starlink by next year. 

However, Lu Li-shih, a former Taiwanese naval instructor, believes that Musk might hesitate to get involved in a conflict in Taiwan due to his business in China.

“Starlink is for civilian use and it is a profit-making business for Musk but it has become critical to Ukraine almost by accident. Musk’s biggest Tesla factory outside the US is in Shanghai, which delivered more than half of the world’s Telsa vehicles last year. The mainland market is crucial to Musk.

“I don’t think Musk would allow his Starlink to be used for the transmission of encoded military data if war happens over Taiwan. In order to avoid political sanctions from China or the US, Musk might make Starlink strictly a commercial service as soon as the Ukraine war is over. A businessman like him will never sacrifice a business interest even if he is a patriot,” Lu said.

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SpaceX Starlink might be a deterrence to conflict over Taiwan
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