Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A timely reminder of China's threat

According to a recent Pentagon report, the number of Chinese short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan has now increased to 450. The report also estimates the number of missiles will increase by 75 per year over the next few years. This is a 50 percent increase from earlier growth estimates by the US. The report also warns that unless Taipei undertakes the necessary improvements to its military power, China will have the capability to rapidly destroy this nation's airfields within the next few years. It will also be able to use short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, special forces and other military power to rapidly undermine Taiwan's ground, air defense, and command and control facilities.

The content of the report was no surprise because China's military ambitions have always been obvious. What's worrying is that Taiwan's military preparedness has been declining quickly due to the sluggish economy and the relaxation of psychological defenses caused by cross-strait interactions.

One possible strategy of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) would be to launch a fierce surprise attack featuring information warfare, air raids, missile attacks, a naval blockade and amphibious and airborne blitzes that will target key strategic areas, causing massive destruction and thereby forcing Taipei to surrender. Beijing could also gradually turn up the military heat on Taiwan, forcing this nation's leaders to adopt policies that are in China's interest. China's military buildup is not only aimed at Taiwan but is also meant to fight forces from the US or other countries that may emerge. Beijing may adopt asymmetrical tactics to put US aircraft carrier fleets coming to Taiwan's help into a complicated war situation. China is a solid threat to both Taiwan and the US.

What is even more difficult to guard against than the PLA's rising military might is China's attempts to unravel Taiwan's national will and to block US intervention in cross-strait issues by diplomatic and other non-military means. Now that the US needs Beijing to influence North Korea regarding Pyongyang's nuclear program, it could become more aloof to the Taiwan issue. This could set the stage for China to force Taiwan to the negotiating table under terms favorable to Beijing. This is what Taipei must guard against first and foremost.

The increasing trade and economic exchanges across the Taiwan Strait are the most damaging to the nation's psychological defense. After moving their companies and money to China, many Taiwanese businesspeople have become Beijing's spokespersons, demanding direct links and supporting the "one China" principle. Hong Kong's fate since its handover to Beijing gives us a glimpse into the gradual-invasion model, which is harder to guard against than a military invasion. Only after seeing what was meant to be included in the territory's national security bill, also known as Article 23 legislation, did the people of Hong Kong realize that "one country, two systems" is a sugar-coated poison pill. Even a demonstration by 500,000 people against the proposed legislation not be able to salvage the interests of the people in the territory.

As long as China does not renounce the use of force against Taiwan, it will be the nation's biggest security threat. Taiwan will be forced to adopt a defensive "porcupine" response. The Pentagon report is a timely warning both to Taiwanese and Americans that they cannot afford to let down their guard against Beijing's threat.

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