Mon, Feb 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Aircraft now a priority, experts urge

TIME TO MOVE In the wake of the US-Japan declaration of Taiwan as a common security issue, military experts have urged officials to get patrol aircraft -- on the double

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Military experts said yesterday that Taiwan should swiftly build up its P3C maritime-patrol aircraft force to be used in conjunction with those of the US and Japan, after the two countries declared yesterday that Taiwan was a common security issue.

Liao Holmes Liao (廖宏祥), a research fellow in the Division of Strategic and International Studies at the Taiwan Research Institute and a former professor at the National Defense University's Armed Forces College, and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), also a military expert, both highlighted the significance of building a P3C force promptly, as the US and Japan are adjusting their military strategy in East Asia.

The US has approved the sale of 12 P3C aircraft to Taiwan, but the arms deal including the aircraft as well as three PAC-3 missile batteries and eight diesel power submarines has been delayed in the legislature.

Lee said if the legislature passed the NT$610.8 billion bill this year, the US would deliver the first P3C to Taipei in 2008, the next four in 2009, four in 2010 and the last four in 2011.

Liao said the major objective of the new US-Japanese declaration on the Taiwan Strait was to enhance their anti-submarine warfare capabilities in East Asia, and in practice this will mean strengthening their P3C activities in the area.

Liao said while the US had 80 P3Cs stationed in Japan, Japan also owned over 120 P3Cs. Their P3C force have intensively patrolled the waters of East Asia and exchanged intelligence.

"They not only have been grasping what is happening under the waters of East Asia, but have established the strongest military-cooperation model in the world after the Cold War," Liao said.

He said while the US and Japan were adjusting their strategy to pay more attention to the Taiwan Strait and to a more aggressive Chinese navy, Taiwan should build its P3C force as quickly as possible, to prepare for a connection with those of the US and Japan.

However, Liao said he would not support the purchase of eight diesel subs from the US because the prices were too high. Instead, a strong P3C force would be a cheap and efficient way to counter Chinese submarines and a possible blockade of Taiwan.

However, Liao said it is a pity that, although the government has planned to buy 12 P3Cs, the force would be efficient only under the command of a land-based anti-submarine warfare command center, the construction of which the government has yet to propose. "It is like having a computer without a screen," Liao said.

In addition, both Liao and Lee urged the acquisition of better 4CISR (communications, command and electronics systems) units from the US.

"Although the government has been in the process of obtaining 12 P3Cs, the kind of 4CISR system used on the P3Cs is more important," Lee said.

Liao said the Chinese navy has become more active and aggressive in recent years. As the world's No.2 navy force, Japan felt annoyed and humiliated when a Chinese nuclear submarine made an incursion into its waters near Okinawa last November.

Also, as one of the major sea-lanes from Japan and Korea in Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia, the Taiwan Strait is of strategic importance to trade in the region.

As a result, Japan agreed to move from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity.

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