When Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (
Why? There are serious technological hurdles involved in designing and building (much less fielding) an accurate cruise or ballistic missile with a range that would be effective in striking targets in China.
Second, Bush administration officials have long publicly opposed efforts by Taiwan to develop what are often described as "offensive" capabilities, such as a land-attack cruise missile (LACM) or ballistic missile system.
Despite the skepticism, only last week -- while calling on Taiwan to take its defense "seriously" -- the US de facto ambassador to Taiwan made pointed comments in response to Lee's public announcement about the cruise missiles.
"We think that offensive capabilities on either side of the Strait are destabilizing and therefore not in the interest of peace and security," American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young quoted Dennis Wilder, the senior director for East Asian affairs at the US National Security Council, as saying.
All of this back-and-forth centers on a program about which very few verifiable details are available.
Reports detailing the development of the Hsiung Feng-2E LACM have been surfacing since 2001. The HF-2E is supposedly an LACM with a 1,000km range based on the successful Hsiung Feng series of anti-ship missiles, a program developed by the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology.
As the US seeks to limit Taiwan's development of domestic weapons systems -- a practice which itself evokes US president Dwight D. Eisenhower's warnings about the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial establishment on US policymaking -- it should consider how other efforts to limit military technology have turned out.
One example is the Washington Naval Conference of 1921, when the major powers strictly limited the number of battleships that nations could build. The argument was that the battleship, as the pre-eminent weapon of mass destruction of the day, had an ability to project power and had to be strictly controlled.
The result of that conference was that Japan, among others, was told that it could build only a handful of battleships in comparison to countries such as the US and Great Britain.
Miffed at what they perceived as racism and bullying, this spurred the Japanese to focus on an alternative technology: the aircraft carrier. This technology ultimately rendered the battleship obsolete -- but only after several devastating attacks on battleships by carrier-based aircraft, the most notable being, of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Furthermore, one must ask exactly what the US means when it says it is worried about "offensive capabilities." How can any serious defense strategist (which one hopes a member of the US National Security Council qualifies as) argue that there is a difference between "offensive" and "defensive" capabilities in this day and age?
The problem is that the US is making no distinction between tactical offense and strategic offense. Do the "experts" back in Washington truly think that Taiwan is going to start a war with China?
This is not a realistic concern. Since the US claims the right of pre-emptive attack, why then cannot other nations do the same?