The Ministry of National Defense last Friday confirmed a piece of news concerning a Chinese Han-class nuclear-powered attack submarine that surfaced near our navy vessels and passed through waters off Kinmen in late June. The media focused on whether an alert was raised and whether the procedures the navy followed were appropriate.
In my opinion, there is something more significant for our compatriots to be heeding as China's navy is being rapidly developed, and they have purchased weapons abroad, mostly from Russia and the EU.
By 2010, China is expected to have 70 of the most modern surface vessels, several modern strategic nuclear submarines, and several tens of modernized attack submarines, exceeding the modern forces of both Taiwan's navy and even Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.
To meet Taiwan's defense needs, the US agreed in 2001 to sell a robust package of weapons to Taiwan, including eight diesel-electric submarines, three Patriot PAC 3 anti-missile batteries and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.
According to a report from the US Central Intelligence Agency, Taiwan's military spending last year accounted for about 2.6 percent of its GDP, far lower than China's ratio of 4.3 percent. The US defense spending ratio is about 3.5 percent of its GDP.
The US has urged Taiwan to accelerate its military modernization to prevent the cross-Taiwan Strait military balance from tilting further in favor of China by raising the defense budget to 3.5 percent of the GDP. Over the past few years, Taiwan's spending on national defense has only increase slightly while spending on the economy and social welfare has registered double-digit growth during the same period.
It is time for all people in Taiwan to reach a consensus on national security. Delay in approval of the special budget leaves Taiwan defenseless and will only encourage aggression.
The national defense is, in fact, everybody's responsibility. We are all in the same boat.