Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan must get serious on defense

By Tu Ho-ting 杜和庭

The unpredictable North Korea has once again shocked the world.

Despite the fact that a US spy satellite had warned that this hermit regime was preparing to carry out missile tests a month ago, North Korea's July 7 launches of seven ballistic missiles, including one Taepodong 2 -- a long-range two-stage missile theoretically capable of reaching continental US -- still caused neighboring countries to be seriously concerned.

In response, Japan, the US and the UK urgently prepared a draft UN resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea, indicating their grave worries about this crisis.

As North Korea's missile tests remind us about the highly unstable situation on the Korea Peninsula, by contrast, another "flashpoint" -- Taiwan -- faces a more imminent military threat than that posed by Pyongyang. China has pointed more than 800 ballistic missiles at Taiwan, but the world deliberately ignores this.

Because of Taiwan's unparalleled geopolitical importance, located between key Pacific sea lanes, it is clear that continuing to neglect China's formidable threat to Taiwan bodes ill for the region and the entire world.

Last year, China enacted its "Anti-Secession" Law, which laid out a legal justification for Chinese military action to take over Taiwan and prevent Taiwan from becoming formally independent. Although this law is not a timetable to invade Taiwan, it declares that China "should" use "non-peaceful" or other necessary measures against Taiwan whenever the Chinese leadership decides that all possibilities for "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan have been exhausted.

In short, according to this law, the Beijing authorities reserve the right to interpret where the "red line" is that Taiwan must not cross, to judge whether Taiwan has crossed it and to decide when it would launch military action against Taiwan.

In the meantime, China has rapidly modernized its military force, which is aimed, quietly but obviously, at the US and deters US intervention in a possible cross-strait conflict. According to the Pentagon's latest Report on the Military Power of the People' Republic of China, Beijing will deploy at least four new ICBMs in the near future, including the Dongfeng-31, its sibling the Dongfeng-31A, and the submarine-launched Julang-1 and 2. All of these will be capable of striking targets in the continental US.

Moreover, some Chinese strategists have publicly or privately asserted that China would use nuclear weapon if they come into military conflict with the US. Last July, People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) said : "If the Americans draw their missiles and position guided ammunition onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons."

While the military balance across the Taiwan Strait has shifted in China's favor, it is surprising that Taiwan continues let its military strength wane and its power weaken. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP), have vetoed the special arms procurement bill 56 times in the legislature in the past two years. Actually, the arms in the bill, including diesel submarines, P3-C maritime patrol aircraft and PAC-3 missile defense batteries, were included in Taiwan's arms procurement wish list when the KMT was the ruling party in the 1990s.

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