Better national security net needed

By the Liberty Times editorial  / 

Sun, Nov 16, 2003 - Page 8

National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥) said in the Legislative Yuan that the biggest potential crisis in national security lies in the gaps in naval security. He also emphasized that the biggest threat to security is not the hundreds of missiles that have been deployed by China, but the gaps in naval security that are hard to grapple with.

Kang candidly admitted this, despite the Ministry of National Defense and the coast guard's mutual support pact. As a result of the unclear division of duties in the pact, problems persist in coastal defense. As the chief of staff of the highest national security policy body of the country, Kang also openly called on the relevant units to close these gaps, indicating that the problems with coastal defense are by no means insignificant.

However, successfully defending the coastline would not eliminate all of China's threats to Tai-wan, such as the importation and smuggling of various diseases, drugs, arms and even prostitutes (by faking marriages with Taiwan-ese men) through all kinds of illegal channels. More serious problems are presented by unification propaganda and violent campaigns waged in the name of "patriotism" within Taiwan through the media, politicians and some groups. The phenomenon is truly worrisome and should raise alarm among our countrymen.

Taiwan is an island country with a coastline of more than 1,200km. Ineffective defense of the coastline will open the gate to Chinese threats. During the martial law era the military was in charge of defending the coastline. However, the coastline was simply too long and people periodically slipped through.

After martial law had been lifted, the defense of the coastline was relaxed. The military handed over the task of coastal defense to the Coast Guard Authority, which is less well-equipped and professionally trained for the purpose.

Along with heated cross-strait exchanges, the number of illegal Chinese immigrants has increased rapidly. The intelligence-gathering, espionage and other activities of Chinese spies in Taiwan have become serious threats to this country's political, economic and national security.

Moreover, because the PRC neither recognizes the sovereignty of our country nor renounces the use of force against Taiwan, the risk of a war breaking out between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait still exists. While the two sides are engaged in heated exchanges the risk of war continues to lurk in the background.

As a result of the threat of war, all the interactions between people on either side of the Strait, such as trade, marriages and visits, have taken on serious political implications. At the same time, joint efforts to crack down on crime between the two sides are being hampered. Under these circumstances, the pressure is mounting on Taiwan's national defense, giving rise to serious long-term problems.

As far as intelligence security is concerned, according to statistics released by the Investigative Bureau, more than 3,000 Chinese spies are currently estimated to be hidden in Taiwan. These people can penetrate into political and economical centers, science-based parks and military bases, as well as national security and military facilities for intelligence gathering.

If effective preventive mecha-nisms are not set up, national security will collapse and the high-tech industry's business secrets will leak out, impairing the development of high-value industries.

In the area of economic security, Chinese immigrants have taken employment opportunities away from Taiwan's workforce with their low wages. This has aggravated the high unemployment rate, forcing the government to increase its expenditure on welfare for the unemployed.

On the other hand, China is systematically wooing Taiwanese industries, causing a massive emigration of small and mid-sized Taiwanese firms, further decreasing job opportunities for Taiwan-ese workers. The accumulated labor resentment, which is further deliberately inflamed by some people with an ulterior agenda, has led to another form of class struggle. The potential effect of this cannot be underestimated.

In terms of border security, smugglers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are using all modes of transport and any loophole in the line of defense to come and go as they please, seriously jeopardizing border security.

Because borders are highly sensitive areas, the expulsion of illegal fishing boats and inspections of suspected smuggling boats could ignite serious crises if they are not handled properly.

In view of all these, there is a serious need to upgrade the defense of Taiwan's borders.

In terms of social security, bogus marriages are often used to smuggle in Chinese, enabling them to engage in various illegal activities in Taiwan.

Marriage has become simply a way to smuggle people into the country. In fact, some Chinese brides, under manipulation by some political groups, are used as a means to discredit the government, and to engage in political protests under the pretense of human rights and humanitarianism. This has not only impacted on the stability of the families and created confused values about the marriage institution, but has led to various family disputes and social problems. This is not to mention the social chaos that may result from ethnic rivalries.

In terms of health security, SARS originated in China and then spread to all parts of the world. Despite health and sanitary inspections set up on the borders for people entering through the legal channels, the disease still made it into Taiwan, creating a large-scale epidemic. This is not to mention the threat posed by people smuggled in crowded and unsanitary vessels and without any sanitary and health inspections.

In addition to all these security issues, one should not ignore the unification propaganda campaign waged by China in Taiwan through various legalized channels. This is especially evident from China's solicitation of lawmakers and businesspeople to study in China through preferential treatment. After these people come back to Taiwan, they willingly become China's advocates. This is one phenomenon the media has extensively reported, yet the government seems to be unable to do anything about it.

On the other hand, China's unification propaganda body is soliciting government officials who have retired from farming and fishery government bodies, as well as officials of the fishermen's and farmers' cooperatives, to help China develop its own fishing and farming industries. Taiwanese youngsters have also been invited on visits and tours in China.

Obviously, China is becoming increasingly flexible in its unification and propaganda tactics. Ppropaganda units targeting Tai-wan have been set up from the central government level to the local level. In contrast, Taiwan has no corresponding mechanisms, nor are the various relevant government ministries sufficiently integrated. There is much room for improvement in this regard.

All in all, national security is much more than the duty of either the coast guard or the defense ministry. The most important thing is to have a comprehensive and integrated "national security net" mechanism through which the actions of the different government branches can be integrated and coordinated.

This is the way to deal with China's unification propaganda and smuggling. Otherwise, everyone in Taiwan will suffer.

Therefore, we must seriously call on the National Security Council -- which is in charge of national security policymaking -- to make tougher demands on the coast guard and all relevant ministries on the one hand, and on the other hand to immediately draft a proposal or blueprint for the establishment of the "national security net." It isn't too late to act -- yet.