The planned purchase by China of S-400 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) from Russia, which this newspaper first reported in March last year, is one of many reminders that despite warmer relations in the Taiwan Strait, China is relentless in its efforts to achieve complete military dominance over Taiwan.
As Defense News reported this week, Beijing is in talks with Moscow for the acquisition of the S-400, which has a range of 400km. If everything goes as planned, the missiles could be deployed as early as 2017. At present, China’s air defenses in its Fujian Province rely primarily on the S-300 PMU2 and the HQ9, a local variant of the S-300. Both have a range of about 200km, which puts parts of northwestern Taiwan within range, while ensuring complete coverage within China’s side of the median line in the Taiwan Strait.
With the deployment of the S-400, all of Taiwan would fall within range of Chinese missiles, which would put Taiwan’s aircraft at great risk from the moment they take off. Because negotiations are ongoing, it is not yet known how many systems the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) intends to purchase and whether this would be sufficient to threaten Taiwan’s airspace. Furthermore, Taiwan cannot rule out the possibility that the S-400 will not be deployed in Fujian Province, but rather near major cities or critical military installations further inland.
Despite those unknowns, China’s efforts to achieve full dominance over Taiwan’s airspace are cause for concern. As Ian Easton, a researcher at the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute, told Defense News, rumors of an S-400 acquisition may have deflated interest within the Taiwanese air force in procuring F-16C/Ds from the US, and could explain the seeming interest in acquiring F-35 Joint Strike Fighters instead, which are designed to counter such air defenses.
As Taiwan assesses its changing security environment, one option would be to break its commitments to the Missile Technology Control Regime by embarking on a full-blown program to develop and deploy cruise missiles in sufficient numbers and range as to threaten SAM sites in China’s Fujian Province and elsewhere.
Intensifying research and development of anti-radiation missiles, acquiring AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles from the US, or fielding unmanned aerial vehicles capable of operating inside Chinese airspace are possible alternatives, as is the creation of special forces units that can infiltrate China to conduct sabotage operations against SAM bases. However, in the end, such countermeasures are high-risk and can only lead to further escalation.
What is clear is that something will have to be done to remedy the growing imbalance of power in the Taiwan Strait, which in large part is the result of Russia’s continued willingness to sell highly advanced military technology to the PLA. As the weaker party in the dispute, Taiwan enjoys no such largesse from its main military benefactor, the US, which imposes serious limits on the type of defense articles that Taiwan can procure to secure its self-defense.
Another way to address the matter would be to use diplomacy to increase pressure on Moscow to cease providing the PLA with its latest defense technology, of which the S-400 is but the latest in a long shopping list that also includes highly advanced Su-35 aircraft. Russian arms transfers have played no small role in creating a PLA that is now strong enough to threaten not just Taiwan, but every other country in the region and beyond.
Washington, along with the international community, should impress upon Moscow that continued sale of advanced weaponry to an increasingly assertive — and nationalistic — China is a destabilizing factor and that it must cease. It should be reminded, if only for its own interest, that whatever technology it passes on to China will eventually be reverse-engineered, copied and turned into cheaper export versions that risk undermining the competitiveness of Russian defense export articles.
And, if necessary, Russia should be threatened with sanctions if it fails to comply.
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei. However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong. There might be more
All lives eventually come to an end. Over the years, my friendship with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had its ups and downs. Lee’s passing was a heavy blow and has left me deeply saddened. We experienced a lot together and the memories have come flooding back. Lee was born several months earlier than me. During World War II, he was studying at Kyoto Imperial University, but halfway through his studies, he was forced to change his name and enter military service. I was studying at Tokyo Imperial University, but went into hiding to avoid military service, and I was later