Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Dangers lurk in defense arguments

By the Liberty Times editorial

Great danger lurks behind the current cross-strait relationship. However, some people within Taiwan remain seriously lacking in terms of their sense of alert -- and they are the greatest hidden obstacle to the nation's efforts to build its military capability.

According to Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), a member of the legislative fact-finding delegation to the US to research arms purchases, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the group that if Taipei does not purchase enough arms for self-defense soon, a military imbalance between Taiwan and China will quickly evolve.

Wolfowitz also warned that if Taiwan does not take self-defense seriously, neither will the US. He further said that failing to buy what he considered sufficient weaponry would be no different from encouraging China to increase its military expansion, raising the military threat against Taiwan.

During the delegation's briefing on Asia-Pacific security issues, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Thomas Fargo expressed concerns about the situation, saying it made him lose sleep. Fargo said that he was very worried that the governments of the two sides may misjudge the situation and as a result trigger a war. He said a high level of economic development in China is ushering in modernization of the Chinese military, escalating Chinese threats to the rest of the region.

Some lawmakers continue to hold different opinions from these US perspectives about the special budget for arms purchases, and members of the public have also voiced their opposition or wish for alternatives. The fact-finding delegation toured US military facilities and communicated with Bush administration officials regarding arms purchases. They also listened to US analyses regarding the military status quo between the two sides of the strait and increased the chance of resolving questions surrounding arms purchases.

Some people have suggested that the US message served as a sales pitch, but this is unlikely, especially given concerns about the evolving imbalance in military power. Rather, this message voiced genuine concerns arising out of the common strategic interests of the US and Taiwan, as well as support for the value of democracy.

In recent years, Beijing has remained adamant about standing by its "one China" principle and has ruthlessly obstructed Taiwan's participation in the international community. As a result, the cross-strait relationship gradually deteriorated. Since the recent presidential election, in particular, Taiwan consciousness has entered the mainstream, prompting China to further reveal its willingness and ambition to deal with Taiwan through military means. The Taiwan Strait for a moment seemed to be on the brink of a military conflict. In times like this, in dealing with the issue of arms purchases, it is necessary to see things from the standpoint of the needs of the national security, rather than blindly opposing military purchases on the grounds of prices, political differences or a potential arms race between the two sides.

The more tense the cross-strait relationship becomes, the more our countrymen need to have an accurate sense about who our enemies are. There should not be any more wishful thinking that so long as our side does not purchase advanced arms systems, then the other side will not create a military conflict.

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