At a symposium held on Saturday, the Ministry of National Defense revealed that China will have its first aircraft carrier battle group by 2020.
When that occurs, the Chinese navy will be able to surround Taiwan from the east and will have greatly bolstered its ability to hinder US warships coming to Taiwan's aid in the event of armed conflict.
Therefore, the eight diesel submarines which make up one part of the arms purchase package approved by US President George W. Bush in 2001 have become increasingly important to the navy and are vital to Taiwan's future defense needs, a naval spokesman added.
The ministry and the navy were obviously highlighting China's naval progress to remind the public that despite endless promises from various pan-blue bigwigs, the purchase of the submarines from the US is still being blocked from review in the legislature by their lawmakers. This situation has been allowed to prevail for two years.
During that time, the pan-blue camp has done everything in its power to hold up the bill, first by claiming that parts of it were too expensive, then by linking it to the referendum on defense held in tandem with the 2004 presidential election -- which it sabotaged. Then it was the probe into the president's "state affairs fund" and, finally, cross-strait flights and comments by the US representative in Taiwan, Stephen Young.
The continued delay is the fault of the People First Party (PFP), which has been holding its pan-blue ally, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), to ransom over the bill, threatening to side with the pan-green camp on a bill that would divest the KMT of its stolen assets if it agrees to pass the arms purchase.
Some credit must be given, however, because the submarine portion of the bill was originally overpriced. But now that the budget has been revised downward in line with its demands, the PFP has no reason to further delay proceedings.
But still the PFP holds it up. And by now it has become quite clear to everyone that as long as the PFP has any political power left it will never allow the bill to pass.
So, the question people should be asking is: Who exactly is the PFP representing?
Not the majority of Taiwanese, who time and again have shown they value a strong relationship with the US and have indicated their desire to maintain the cross-strait "status quo."
Whether one is pro-unification or pro-independence, maintaining the "status quo" means investing in defensive weapons so that Taiwan has the military muscle to negotiate with Beijing on equal terms -- which relies on keeping Taiwan's armories stocked and up to date.
Taiwan cannot afford to delay giving the project the go-ahead for much longer, because even if the purchase of the vessels were approved tomorrow, the first submarines would not be ready for another 10 years or so.
China's view, on the other hand, is that no one should be allowed to sell arms to Taiwan, as this would only impede annexation.
If China continues to expand its military capability unchecked while that of Taiwan remains blocked, checked and delayed at every juncture, then only one party will benefit and China will eventually be able to enforce its will.
Since the price reduction, the PFP has presented no rational explanation for the continued delay of the arms bill, thereby leaving people to conclude that PFP legislators only have one country's best interests at heart. Sadly, that country is not Taiwan.