Tue, Feb 25, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Military mindset needs overhaul

By Parris Chang 張旭成

Vice Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) attended a defense industry conference held in the US earlier this month, exchanging views with US State and Defense Department officials in charge of Taiwan affairs. Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) took part in a similar conference last March for the first time, conducting strategic dialogue with US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfo-witz, marking a milestone in defense cooperation between the two countries.

The Bush administration is concerned about Taiwan's security and has reiterated its resolve to support the country's popularly elected government. President George W. Bush has stated that the US will do whatever it takes to help this country defend itself against China's military threats.

But during the past six months, officials at the US National Security Council, Department of State and Department of Defense have time and again reminded their Taiwanese guests that Taipei must do its utmost to protect itself, rather than overly relying on US intervention, and that solutions to most of the problems must depend on Taiwan itself.

US officials have also complained that, while China is rapidly stepping up its military threats, Taipei seems to lack a sense of urgency, with its defense budgets declining annually and defense and military reforms moving slowly. They have commented that the country is failing to do its best to beef up its capacity for self-defense.

The difficult situation facing this nation in the area of defense is a result of China's militaristic arms build-up and efforts to isolate it in the international community. But US officials have bluntly said that the main problems actually lie in this country's conservative, passive military thinking, its bureaucratic system and its limited economic resources.

China has continued to procure weapons and military technology from the countries of the former Soviet Union, especially Russia, to speed up its military modernization. This has greatly influenced the People's Liberation Army's capability to use force and created an imbalance of military power between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, threatening this nation's security.

The annual report on China's military power issued by the US Department of Defense in July last year pinpointed the driving force behind Beijing's military modernization -- the need to prepare for future military conflicts in the Strait. In the event that China takes military action against Taiwan, it will launch preemptive surprise attacks to effectively deter the US from intervening and aiding this country.

Since Taiwan withdrew from the UN, Beijing has intensified its efforts to contain and isolate Taipei in the international community. In every possible way, it hinders Taipei from establishing formal diplomatic relations with other countries, limits its arms procurement efforts and obstructs its exchanges of military technology and ideas with other nations, directly hampering its military modernization.

US officials have frankly stated that a big challenge facing Taiwan is the conservative attitude of its military. They said conservative forces are used to analyzing cross-strait affairs from a Chinese point of view, reflecting the mistaken belief that tangible power is the factor dominating cross-strait relations. Since Tai-wan is unable to engage in endless military competition with China, some have even suggested that expressing "goodwill" to Beijing is the best strategy for maintaining peace and stability in the Strait.

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