Fri, Mar 27, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Pentagon warns on conceding to China

GOAL A Pentagon report says that while Beijing speaks of peaceful unification, its continuous military upgrade shows that it is not willing to renounce the use of force

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A new Pentagon report on Chinese military power suggests that Beijing may be trying to frighten Taiwan into making repeated concessions.

It says that despite apparently improved cross-strait relations under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), "there have been no signs that Beijing's military dispositions opposite Taiwan have changed."

The 60-page annual report to Congress on China's military also makes clear that the US "is maintaining the capacity to defend against Beijing's use of force or coercion against Taiwan."

"Beijing appears prepared to defer the use of force as long as it believes the trend of cross-strait relations continues toward unification and the costs of a conflict outweigh the benefits," it says.

"In the near term, Beijing's objective appears to be focused on preventing Taiwan from moving toward de jure independence through a strategy that integrates political, economic, cultural, legal, diplomatic and coercive military instruments of power," it says.

"Although Beijing professes a desire for peaceful unification that would allow Taiwan to retain a high degree of autonomy, the PLA's [People's Liberation Army's] deployment of short range ballistic missiles, enhanced amphibious warfare capabilities and modern, advanced long-range anti-air systems across the strait from Taiwan underscores that Beijing remains unwilling to renounce the use of force," the report adds.

As part of an "executive summary" the report concludes that the PLA is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries.

"These same capabilities," the report says," could in the future be used to pressure Taiwan toward a settlement of the cross-strait dispute on Beijing's terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay or deny any possible US support for the island in case of conflict."

Some Pentagon analysts hold that China would first pursue a measured approach characterized by signaling its readiness to use force, followed by deliberate buildup of force to optimize the speed of engagement over strategic deception.

Others contend that it is more likely that Beijing would sacrifice preparations in favor of surprise to force a rapid military or political resolution before other countries could respond.

"Beijing might use a variety of disruptive, punitive or lethal military actions in a limited campaign against Taiwan, likely in conjunction with overt and clandestine economic and political activities," the report says.

"Such a campaign could include computer network or limited kinetic attacks against Taiwan's political, military and economic infrastructure to induce fear on Taiwan and degrade the populace's confidence in the Taiwan leadership. Similarly, PLA special operations forces that have infiltrated Taiwan could conduct attacks against infrastructure or leadership targets," it says.

The report says that limited short range missile strikes and precision strikes against air-defense systems, including air bases, radar sites, missiles, space assets and communications facilities, could support a campaign to degrade Taiwan's defenses, neutralize Taiwan's military and political leadership, and possibly break the Taiwan people's will to fight.

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