The kind of mistake that should never be allowed to take place has, in fact, taken place in the Republic of China (ROC) Navy: the accidental launch of a Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missile. In a situation like this, it would only be natural that the utmost care be taken to reveal the truth behind the incident and to fix the shortcomings that made it possible to prevent something similar from ever happening again.
Instead, a hurried and incomplete explanation has set off endless speculation and political posturing turning the focus toward China and demanding that the minister of national defense take full responsibility for the event.
If Taiwan had the ambition to “reconquer the mainland” as the phrase went during the authoritarian era, then the Hsiung Feng III missile could of course serve as an offensive weapon. It is just that Taiwan’s national defense is focused on just that — defense and preventing invasion. It is not built on the idea of aggression against other states. The Hsiung Feng III missile is basically a defensive weapon aimed at deterring and opposing a foreign attack.
Who will worry about a missile that flies 150km? Countries in Taiwan’s vicinity, such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam or the Philippines, certainly will not, nor will the US, which is working hard to promote free navigation in international waters, because there is no animosity between these countries and Taiwan.
The only country that would use such an incident even as an opportunity to make noise is China, which still refuses to abandon its ambition to annex Taiwan by military means, if neccessary.
China fears that Taiwan will develop nuclear arms capabilities, but the nuclear arms program was detected and blocked by the US during the presidency of late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). China does not fear the Hsiung Feng III, and it only made routine protests when the US sold Taiwan Harpoon missiles, which are similar to the Hsiung Feng III.
The reason for this is that Taiwan will not attack anyone — it is only interested in its own self-defense.
Still, Beijing’s propaganda machinery and media mouthpieces want to use this incident to interfere with the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), force her government to recognize the “1992 consensus” and stir up divisions within Taiwan to meets its political goals of weakening Taiwan’s sovereignty and national defense.
That the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mainland Affairs Council on their own initiative informed neighboring countries of an incident that occurred within the nation’s territorial waters is quite considerate, and with the exception of China, every country has responded to the information in a friendly manner.
China never informs Taiwan about its military exercises, but still it wants Taiwan to report any accidents to Beijing.
It is pretty clear that China has ulterior motives.
When it comes down to it, the Hsiung Feng III incident was a domestic matter.
The military should engage in some thorough reflection, improve military discipline and reshape the military’s image as an organization that protects the country and its people.
This is the only way to regain public trust and respect.
When dealing with such a serious matter, the ruling and opposition parties should abandon their bloodthirstiness and infighting and instead adopt a cooler and more detached stance as they make stern demands for national defense reform and stronger military discipline.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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