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.
\nAccording 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.
\nWolfowitz 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.
\nDuring 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.
\nSome 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.
\nSome 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.
\nIn 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.
\nThe 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.
\nThe worrying thing is this confused logic does exist in the minds of some of our countrymen. Therefore, the opposition party has done everything within its power to obstruct the pro-posed arms purchases. A nonpartisan group even took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to an arms race.
\nUnder normal circumstances, we of course support spending most of the state budget on education, social welfare, national health insurance and fundamental infrastructure,to improve the welfare of the people. However, China has more than 500 missiles targeting Taiwan.
\nIf Taiwan is unwilling to purchase arms to strengthen its own self-defense capability, it will have problems surviving, let alone protecting other rights of its citizens. Therefore on the issue of arms purchases, the people of Taiwan must debate the fundamental upsides and downsides with pragmatism and objectivity. They must not make decisions based on blind emotions, which will only hurt themselves.
\nIn addition, we are even more worried that the opposition parties cannot stop their obstructionism when it comes to arms purchases, which adds a measure of uncertainty to the process. Taiwan's second-generation arms systems comprise primarily F-16 fighter jets, Mirage 2000 fighter jets and Lafayette submarines. But facing large-scale arms expansions by China in recent years, Taiwan needs to strengthen its anti-submarine and anti-missile capabilities so as to construct a more complete arms network.
\nThe arms that the US government has agreed to sell to Taiwan will supplement the gaps in the existing network. If Taiwan misses this chance, an imbalance in cross-strait military power will begin between next year and 2010, which will probably bring irreparable harm to the people of Taiwan.
\nHowever, the pan-blue alliance, which has no awareness of what is at stake, has not only obstructed arms purchases but has also gone as far as denouncing the arms purchase plans and making President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) look bad by depicting these purchases as a case of Taiwan selling out to the US.
\nAs a result of such irrational attitudes on the part of the pan-blue alliance, when former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairwoman Therese Shaheen, who is very friendly toward Taiwan, visited Taipei to accept an award from Chen, some pan-blue politicians called the award "despicable" and said it was like "slapping the face of the US government."
\nAfter Shaheen became AIT chairwoman in 2002, she offered Taiwan much help on various important issues. Of all US presidents over the years, US President George W. Bush's friendliness toward Taiwan is almost unprecedented. This has to do with Shaheen's friendliness toward Taiwan and the way she accurately conveyed US policy. As indicated by Chen, Shaheen is Taiwan's best friend and a guardian angel of Taiwan's people.
\nHowever, People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) actually speculated whether such a good American friend was an arms dealer. Doesn't he know that when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which he served for decades, was in power the military budget took up a percentage of the total budget that was far higher than it is now? At that time it was even more difficult to buy advanced arms systems. Now that our US ally is willing to sell such arms, some oppose the purchase for a variety of reasons. Such conduct should be described as despicable.
\nShaheen has said that if the world is a seashell, then Taiwan is the most shining pearl. Over the past decades, Taiwan has created both political and economic miracles, evolving into a role model for developing countries. Shaheen's words were certainly no exaggeration. The preciousness and the beauty of Taiwan is for the world to see. Unfortunately, this has in turn increased China's desire for Taiwan. However, while Chinese aggression may bring fear, the biggest threat to Taiwan is internal division. If political parties can think from the standpoint of the national interest and uniformly support arms purchases, then Taiwan will continue to shine like a pearl.
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