Fri, May 18, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Comparison with Panama upsets top military brass

OVERSIMPLIFICATION A recent report in the `Washington Post' said Taiwan's military was more like Panama's than Israel's, prompting a number of questions in the Legislative Yuan


Whether Taiwan is more like Israel or Panama in terms of its combat strength yesterday became a point of dispute between lawmakers and defense leaders at the legislature.

The argument stemmed from a report by the Washington Post on April 25, which quoted an anonymous US defense official as saying: "Before we came, we thought we'd find Israel; instead we found Panama."

Quoting the Washington Post report, opposition lawmaker Wang Tien-ging (王天競) asked Minister of National Defense Wu Shih-wen (伍世文) why Taiwan was compared to Panama, instead of Israel, in terms of its combat strength. Wang asked the question yesterday at the defense committee of the legislature.

"We cannot say there is anything wrong with comparing Taiwan to Panama. But since the comparison is a criticism of Taiwan, we must humbly accept it and seek improvements in our combat strength," Wu said.

Lieutenant General Hu Cheng-pu (胡鎮埔), deputy chief of the general staff for operations, voiced disagreement with the comparison as he followed up Wu's answer to Wang.

"Whether Taiwan is Panama or not would have to be found out in a real war. The comparison of us to Israel or Panama is from the angle of the US. We can by no means accept the comparison of us to Panama," Hu said.

Meanwhile, Hu also answered inquiries from lawmaker Wang as to the result of the computer wargames portion of the recently ended Hankuang No. 17 exercise.

Quoting a report in a local newspaper, Wang said the result of computer wargames is that Taiwan's military, posing as the red army, lost to the invading Chinese military, posing as the blue army.

Hu refuted the media report as false, saying the wargames did not end with the red army losing and the blue army winning.

"There is no winner or loser in the game. The result of the game only shows how much damage each side has suffered. It will help us know what kind of weapons we still need for the defense of Taiwan," Hu said.

"What happens in the wargames is that we allow the invading Chinese military to move on and land on Taiwan despite the fact that 25 percent of its troops have been destroyed as they are crossing the Taiwan Strait," Hu said.

"Why we do so is because we always assume the enemy is stronger than it actually is. In a real war, the Chinese military will not be able to land on Taiwan if 25 percent of its forces are destroyed while crossing the Strait," he said.

Also answering this question, minister Wu said the purpose of computer wargames is to find out the mistakes troops might make in a real war.

"We launch computer wargames quite often. The mere result of a single game cannot be used to explain all," Wu said.

"Computer wargames are not enough for us. Sometimes we will hold real maneuvers of troops to test whether their results match those of the computer wargames," he said.

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