Sat, Mar 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: It's time for the PFP to deliver

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) has predicted that if the arms procurement bill is not passed by the legislature, the China-Taiwan "military capability ratio" will increase to a dangerous level by 2012. It is clear that the legislature must pass the bill to prevent this gap from growing any wider.

If the arms purchase bill is passed, the capability ratio will fall to a manageable and reassuring level. If an enemy has reasonable expectation of failure, then it will not likely order an attack.

China's national defense expenditure for this year is up 12.6 percent, but spending growth has been in double figures for several years now. In addition, other defense expenditures are tucked away in other areas of the budget which, if added to the official numbers, would amount to a quite astonishing figure.

In comparison, Taiwan's defense expenditure has increased by only 3 percent, leaving a worrying gap in the military spending of both countries. In addition, China has consistently lobbied a receptive Europe Union to lift its arms embargo, which will mean even more high-grade military equipment making its way across from Europe. The significant boost to China's military capability that would follow this abandonment of all propriety on the part of the EU cannot be ignored.

China is currently reviewing "anti-secession" legislation, which will make possible the use of "non-peaceful means" to counter Taiwanese independence, or even autonomy. These means could include a blockade or even invasion.

However it is manifested, the law is essentially a license to instigate hostilities against Taiwan.

Because the right of interpretation of the law lies with China, it can characterize any democratic activity within Taiwan as pro-independence, and use this as a basis for implementing these "non-peaceful means."

Coupled with the difference in cross-strait military capabilities, such acts of intimidation would amount to planting a time bomb. The foundations of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region would be utterly compromised by it.

In the past, the People First Party (PFP) was the party most strongly opposed to the arms-procurement plan. But President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) reached a consensus last month, with the seventh point of their joint statement stating that, "Taiwan needs sufficient national defense capabilities to ensure peace across the Taiwan Strait. In the future, with `security of the nation, stability across the Taiwan Strait, and peace throughout the region' as our strategic objectives, Taiwan will substantiate necessary arms and military equipment for the defense of our nation."

After February, Soong visited Washington, where he apparently learned of US concerns over Taiwan's security situation, and after the release of the joint statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee, which made the issue regarding the Taiwan Strait a "common strategic objective," our responsibility for our own security has also increased.

Now that negotiations between the administration and the PFP have seen a degree of unity, the PFP should deliver on its commitment and pass the procurement plan. This is the fundamental way to avoid cross-strait conflict.

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