Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan is vital to the US military

By Cheng Ta-chen 鄭大誠

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) stated in its recent annual report to Congress that Taiwan's defense capabilities completely rely on the US and that Taiwan would not be able to withstand an invasion by the People's Liberation Army were it not for US military assistance.

The US should not forget that Taiwan also plays a crucial part in its US Asia-Pacific strategy.

First of all, Taiwan plays an important role as a "pressure point" on the first island chain.

If the US is able to hold Taiwan, it can exert consistent pressure on China through this pressure point.

Similarly, if China were to obtain control over Taiwan, it could exert military pressure on other countries and extend its navy and air forces east of the first island chain.

Therefore, for China, Taiwan is not only a "province that must be unified with the motherland," but also a strategic position for China to break through the first island chain where the US has long carried out its "war of suffocation."

If the US wishes to contain China behind the first island chain, losing Taiwan means losing the battle.

Second, the RAND Corporation has pointed out that large-scale warfare could possibly break out in the future, but the US doesn't have sufficient military capabilities to engage the Middle East, Southwest Asia, the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and South Asia at the same time.

The US has military forces in East Asia deployed in four crucial locations -- Guam, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. However, if a cross-strait war broke out, it is very likely that China would pressure the Japanese government to withdraw its military bases -- Yokosuka, Kadena and Atsugi -- from US use.

Although Guam is a US territory, the fact that it is more than 1,300 nautical miles (2,407km) away from the Taiwan Strait makes it unsuitable for effective military operations, transportation and supplies.

As for the US troops stationed in the Philippines and South Korea, a cross-strait war is not within the scope of their capabilities because of other responsibilities. Obviously, apart from aircraft carriers, the ideal military base for the US to fight China in the Taiwan Strait is Taiwan.

The USCC is on the right track when it recommends that Congress encourage the administration of US President George W. Bush to continue working with Taiwan to modernize its military and enhance Taiwan's capabilities for operating jointly with US and allied forces. However, the committee's report doesn't support selling Taiwan advanced weapons and military equipment, such as the F-16C/D fighter. So how do they want Taiwan's military to modernize?

What's more, in order to effectively improve the common warfare capabilities between the US and Taiwan, the military equipment of both countries must be on the same level, and direct bilateral joint drills are also necessary. But apparently the US hasn't seriously considered this issue.

If a cross-strait war broke out, how could the US expect to work well with Taiwan militarily?

Although the US knows Taiwan's military significance perfectly well, it has failed to develop a closer relationship with Taiwan on the issues of bases and defensive military deployments.

All in all, the US stance is self-contradictory. Taiwan is the only US ally that can assist in countering China's "anti-access" strategy or in breaking through the first island chain.

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