CHINA could begin a devastating war with Taiwan by launching a massive Pearl Harbor-style onslaught on US bases and ships in the Pacific, experts have warned.
Fears are growing that an emboldened Beijing could finally launch military action to take the breakaway island in what could be an even bigger war than Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
It is believed the US would seek to try and defend Taiwan, with Joe Biden vowing to intervene "militarily" against China.
And in new book Defending Taiwan, foreign policy experts Hal Brands and Michael Beckley warn the war could begin with China launching a pre-emptive strike on US forces.
Brands and Beckley warn the "most worrying" scenario would see Beijing attempt to launch a "surprise missile attack" on American forces in Asia.
It would be an attack similar to Pearl Harbor - when the Japanese attempted to knock out the bulk of US naval power in the Pacific on the dawn of World War 2.
Chinese military doctrine demands that they attempt to "paralyse the enemy in one stroke" - and they warn "by the time the [US] was ready to fight, the war might effectively be over".
The experts, who penned the chapter "Getting Ready for a Long War" in the book for the American Enterprise Institute, argue the US is preparing for the "wrong kind of war" over Taiwan.
Both sides are readying their militaries for a "splendid little war".
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But they warn Chinese and US military leaders will end up getting a long, grinding conflict with an overt risk of a nuclear exchange.
Drawing up a worst case scenario for day one of the war, Brands and Beckley describe how Beijing will seek to blunt any response by the US.
"In the most worrying scenario, Beijing would launch a surprise missile attack, hammering not only Taiwan’s defenses but also the American naval and air forces concentrated at a few large bases in the western Pacific," they write.
The massive assault would then be followed by cyberattacks and anti-satellite operations to try sow chaos and stop any effective response by Taiwan and the US.
They go on: "And the PLA would race through the window of opportunity, staging amphibious and airborne assaults that would overwhelm Taiwanese resistance."
"By the time the United States was ready to fight, the war might effectively be over."
The US military has more than a dozen bases in close proximity to Taiwan and China.
The fact that such a war would probably begin with a Pearl Harbor–style missile attack on US bases would make it even harder for an outraged American populace and its leaders to accept a quick defeatBrands and Beckley
Japan, South Korea and the island of Guam are just some of the locations which serve the US army, navy and air force.
And the main source of power for Washington in the region is the mighty Seventh Fleet.
The fleet deploys between 50 to 70 warships, including aircraft carriers, submarines, destroyers, cruisers and assault ships.
Some 27,000 sailors and marines are service with the fleet - which also has around 150 aircraft.
And at the core of the fleet is the Fifth Carrier Strike Group, currently headed by USS Ronald Reagan.
China however would attempt to knock out this invaluable asset at the start of the war - with Beijing often bragging about their "carrier killer" missiles and other anti-ship weapons.
Brands and Beckley write that the US is currently actively planning against this scenario - seeking to "harden and disperse" the US military presence in Asia.
And such a preemptive strike would only serve to galvanise the US determination to hit back hard against China.
"The fact that such a war would probably begin with a Pearl Harbor–style missile attack on US bases would make it even harder for an outraged American populace and its leaders to accept a quick defeat," they wrote.
Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was a surprise attack designed to stop the US from intervening in the empire's expansion in Asia.
More than 350 fighters and bombers blitzed the military base in Hawaii - sinking four battleships, destroying 188 aircraft and killing 2,335 servicemen.
And the very next day the US entered World War 2.
A similar attack triggering a war for Taiwan would see China and the US be locked into a long conflict as neither side would want to give an inch.
Washington would want to hit back and keep its power in Asia, while China's ruling Communist Party would see their future tied to their success in Taiwan.
Brands and Beckley go on: "Even if the United States failed to prevent Chinese forces from seizing Taiwan, it couldn’t easily bow out of the war.
"Quitting without first severely damaging Chinese air and naval power in Asia would badly weaken Washington’s reputation and its ability to defend remaining allies in the region.
"The United States might well fear that admitting defeat would mean the end of its influence in the world’s most economically dynamic region."
It comes as China has vowed they "will not hesitate" to start a war and its forces have been staging invasion drills aimed squarely at Taiwan.
The dispute over the island off the coast of China stems from when it became a refuge for the defeated forces in the Chinese civil war, who fled there in 1949.
The Republic of China, as the island is still officially known, technically claims to still be the government of the whole of China.
But recent years have seen growing demands for independence and the party of its current President Tsai Ing-wen has that as its goal.
China regards Taiwan as being part of its territory and has vowed to reunite the island with the mainland while making clear any independence moves will mean war.
Beijing is rapidly expanding its armed forces, including the imminent launch of a new 100,000-ton aircraft carrier to rival the US Navy.
Its warplanes continue to buzz Taiwan, in what is widely seen as a bid to intimidate the island.
"If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost," Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe told his US counterpart last week.
He vowed the Communist giant would "smash to smithereens any 'Taiwan independence' plot and resolutely uphold the unification of the motherland".