Signaling a greater-than-ever military threat to Taiwan, new information emerged this week showing that China might be much further ahead in its development of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft than previously believed.
In what has caused a major stir within the Pentagon, Beijing Internet censors earlier this week allowed high-resolution photographs of the Chengdu Aircraft Corp stealth fighter to be published for the first time.
“For Taiwan, this means that even a sale of the latest versions of the Lockheed Martin F-16 will only provide a brief period of technical parity with the People’s Liberation Army,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, told the Taipei Times.
Fisher said it was now possible China could deploy significant numbers of the fifth-generation fighters — codenamed the Chengdu J-20 — within 10 years.
“There is now even greater reason for Taiwan to consider shifting its air defense resources to the more survivable short take-off fifth-generation F-35B, with modifications that increase its air combat potential,” he said. “Today, it is doubly tragic for Taiwan that Washington does not appear to be willing to sell either fighter to Taipei. Such a lack of resolve by Washington will only hasten the military confrontation it has successfully deterred since the Korean War.”
Taiwan is urgently pressing US President Barack Obama to sell it 66 advanced versions of the F-16, but with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) scheduled to visit Washington later this month, a sale is unlikely to be approved anytime soon.
Credible sources claim China could build at least 300 J-20s.
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that China has begun flight-testing the J-20, which puts it only a few years behind the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is being developed by the US and a coalition of countries.
While it is possible that the newly released photographs of the J-20 are fakes, most US analysts believe them to be the real thing.
One military analyst said the plane had a chiseled front--section, triangular wings, all-moving tail-planes and seemed to combine the front fuselage of the US’ F-22 with the back half of the Russian T-50 stealth prototype.
“The J-20’s appearance could signal a big step forward for the Chinese air force, which to date relies mostly on airplanes bought from Russia or reverse--engineered from Russian or Israeli designs,” an analyst said.
Judging from the photographs, the J-20 is at least 21m from nose to tail, which means it would have a lower “supercruise” performance and agility than the F-22. However, with larger weapon bays and more fuel, it would have a longer range and carry more arms.
US military sources told the Taipei Times that China may be getting Russian help with the J-20 and that Moscow may be supplying 14.5 tonne thrust 117S engines for the plane, which is expected to double as a bomber.
Fisher said the J-20 could “supercruise,” or fly supersonically, for extended periods without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.
One commentator, writing on the Aviation Week and Space Technology Web site, said the new plane was “something to hang out at 50,000 feet [15.2km] over the Taiwan Strait with a large downward looking radar and serve up a large payload of AAM’s [air-to-air missiles] at anything underneath.”
Dean Cheng (成斌) of the Heritage Foundation think tank has linked the unexpected leak of the J-20 photographs with news earlier in the week that China had reached initial operational capability with a ballistic missile that may be capable of hitting and sinking an aircraft carrier, and reports that Beijing would soon launch a refurbished former Soviet aircraft carrier.
“All of these news items serve to underscore that China’s military development has proceeded more rapidly than many had expected and all of these military efforts are occurring without any pressing military threat to China’s borders or interests,” Cheng said.
“The US should never be afraid to engage the PRC [People’s Republic of China], but neither should it give the Chinese the impression that Washington is dealing with them out of fear. Only a consistent national security policy, including a sustained US presence in the region, can do that,” he said.
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
BRIBERY CASE: President Tsai Ing-wen accepted Su Jia-chyuan’s resignation as he said that he deeply regretted causing trouble for the president due to the investigation Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) yesterday resigned after his nephew, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), was implicated in a bribery case related to a dispute over the ownership of Pacific Sogo Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨). “I resigned from the post so that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would not be bothered by it anymore, and the prosecutors can investigate the case in a fair and just manner. I thank President Tsai once again for supporting me. May the country continue to prosper under her leadership,” Su Jia-chyuan said in a statement. The Presidential Office said that Tsai has accepted
‘INCREASINGLY FAVORED’: Taiwan’s ‘transparent laws and efficient courts’ as well as its financial institutions give it a major advantage to become a financial hub, Tsai said Taiwan would liberalize banking and investment rules to establish itself as a regional financial hub, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told the Taiwan Capital Market Forum in Taipei yesterday. Recent world events could be an opening for Taiwan to become an international center for business investments and financial management, Tsai said at the forum, which was organized by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister publication of the Taipei Times). “We’re facing unknowns in the world right now, including the continuing impact of US-China trade tensions and the reorganization of the global supply chain after COVID-19,” Tsai said. “These bring new challenges and opportunities.” Tsai
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would