Wed, Mar 12, 2008 - Page 8 News List

US report shows PLA could not take Taiwan

By Cheng Ta-chen 鄭大誠

On March 3, the US Department of Defense published its annual report Military Power of the People's Republic of China. Apart from a few figures that have changed, the content of the report is largely the same as previous editions.

Chapter Six, which is of the most interest to Taiwan, describes possible courses of action that China's military might take against Taiwan. The possible contingencies are the same as in last year's report: China could move against Taiwan with limited force, in an air and missile campaign, with quarantines and blockades or through an amphibious invasion.

Like last year's report, it says that using limited force and carrying out an air and missile campaign might affect Taiwan's defensive systems and the willingness of the Taiwanese to fight, but when analyzed more closely, these two actions are only a part of, or perhaps a prelude to, a Chinese attack against Taiwan.

If there were no successful follow-up to these military actions, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) wouldn't be able to attain its goal of "reunification" or "liberating Taiwan."

But the authors of this year's report clearly are of the opinion that China's military capability to carry out either of those courses of action has not improved significantly in the past year and has possibly even weakened.

The authors of the report believe that using a blockade or quarantine against Taiwan would be very taxing on the PLA's capabilities.

Also, China is clearly underestimating the international pressure and the possibility of military escalation that could result from a blockade of the Taiwan Strait.

As in previous years, the US Department of Defense is of the opinion that if China chose to launch an amphibious invasion against Taiwan, its main strategy would still be the "Joint Island Landing Campaign." But the report also says an amphibious invasion is still too complicated for the PLA to carry out.

Last year's report was still only hinting that an amphibious invasion would constitute too big of a risk for the Chinese leaders in Zhongnanhai, both politically and militarily, and so China might lack the capability to successfully launch an attack on Taiwan.

This year's report clearly states that if China were to invade Taiwan's outlying islands, this would show its military capability and political resolve, but it could also turn the Taiwanese public against China.

Moreover, this year's report boldly states that it would be beyond the routine training of the PLA to take over an outlying island like Kinmen or Matsu, let alone invade Taiwan itself. Taiwan would only need to implement some "modest target investments" in defense facilities and equipment to be able to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

In the past years, the US army has paid close attention to the actions the PLA is taking in regard to its anti-access forces, which would be used to deter the US army from coming to Taiwan's aid in the case of an invasion.

Some analysts think that by around 2010, China may have sufficient power to launch an anti-access war. But according to this most recent report of the US Department of Defense on China's military power, an anti-access force that could stop the US army from coming to Taiwan's rescue is one thing, but actually invading Taiwan and succeeding in taking over the country is something else entirely.

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