A hot potato: Destroying the TSMC factories to keep them out of China's hands were it to invade Taiwan isn't likely the US's first action plan. However, that hasn't stopped the saber-rattling. In response, Taiwan recently said it would defend itself from anyone who tries to harm TSMC, whether China or the US.

Taiwan defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng recently stated that his country's military would defend itself from anyone who tried to bomb its industrial facilities, implying the US is no exception. The comments push back against recent US suggestions of destroying TSMC fabs if China were to invade.

China considers the self-governing nation a rogue province and repeatedly expresses ambitions to annex Taiwan by force if necessary. As the global leader in building and supplying transistors that power most computerized devices, any attack on TSMC would ripple across the entire global economy.

At a May 3 conference organized by the California-based think tank the Milken Institute, US Democratic congressman Seth Moulton said the US should make China understand that it would destroy TSMC if China invaded. The threat followed a warning from former National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, who noted in March that China would control the world's economy if it took over TSMC.

Responding to press inquiries about Moulton's comments before a Monday session of the Legislative Yuan, Chiu said Taiwan's military wouldn't tolerate any attempt to bomb the country, even for defensive actions. Former US Defence Policy Under Secretary Michele Flournoy also expressed disagreement with Moulton, saying that losing TSMC would put a $2 trillion hole in the global economy within a year and halt manufacturing worldwide.

Arguments over the idea of forcefully keeping TSMC out of China's grasp have occurred before. The US has also proposed evacuating TSMC engineers from Taiwan as a less violent option during a Chinese invasion which could still be a $1 trillion hit to the world's economy. The US knows this, so much of the rhetoric is just saber-rattling.

Taiwan has previously noted that such actions would be unnecessary to achieve the US's goal of preventing a Chinese TSMC takeover. Last year, Taiwan National Security Bureau director-general Chen Ming-Tong said the company's facilities rely on resources from other countries. Chinese-controlled TSMC facilities would be useless if the US, or anyone else, cut off access to ASML's lithography equipment, for instance.