Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: China's military threat no illusion

Anyone who thinks the Chinese military threat against Taiwan is merely in the minds of the Taiwanese people, or that the situation is no one else's concern, couldn't be more wrong.

In a defense white paper released by the Japanese government on July 6, a strong emphasis was placed on the need for Japan to upgrade its defense capability in the face of the rapid modernization of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

The white paper pointed to concerns over China's increasing military budget -- as high as 11 percent of the country's annual budget by this year -- and the frequent movements by Chinese navy vessels in Japan's exclusive economic zones. For those in this country, namely the pan-blue camp, who continue to see no dire need for Taiwan to upgrade its defense capabilities, Japan's white paper should come as a wake-up call. The threat posed by China is so far reaching that it should be a concern for the communist giant's neighbors. China's military threat has become a regional problem that should be dealt with collectively by all countries in East and Southeast Asia. Cooperation is needed to counter the rise of China's military.

Unfortunately, while countries such as Japan are beginning to see China for what it is -- the source of threats to regional peace -- very few are willing to take action to help counter it. Chinese military threats continue to be perceived by many as a headache for the Taiwanese alone. In fact, most countries in the region have kept silent when the Chinese government makes threats against Taiwan either orally or through military exercises.

Most countries have also chosen to turn a blind eye to the hundreds of missiles targeting Taiwan, failing to verbally condemn China for the deployment as they should.

China's neighbors in the region must be reminded that once a war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait, it will become a regional problem which will have serious economic, social and military consequences throughout Asia and, indeed, the world.

Thus far, China has made no effort to hide its ambition to become a regional and global military superpower. So after the PLA "deals with Taiwan," it is very likely that China will seek other countries to target next.

The Japanese defense white paper made comparisons between the military capabilities of China and Taiwan, and concluded that while the PLA has a much larger air force, navy and ground forces, Taiwan's military is more advanced and refined.

This delicate balance between the two sides of the strait may, however, tip in favor of China in the near future. These are facts that have been reiterated by people of vision in Taiwan. Yet, many if not most people in this country fail to take this threat seriously -- and the planned arms purchase by Taiwan from the US continues be held up while pan-blue lawmakers look for excuses to decline approval of the necessary budget.

Now that even Japan openly acknowledges China's military threat, perhaps the pan-blue camp will finally face reality. Knowing that the problem exists, however, is not enough. The question now is what we should do about it.

As pointed out by Japan's white paper, while Taiwan is no match for China in terms of size, the quality of Taiwan's military continues to lead. This is where Taiwan must continue to maintain its advantage -- to have small but sophisticated armed forces.

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