A US congressional committee was told on Wednesday that Taiwan needed more advanced fighter aircraft and diesel submarines to defend itself against a possible attack by China.
Testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Larry Wortzel, a specialist on the Chinese and Taiwanese military, said that despite a notable improvement in relations across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing continues to insist on its right to use force should Taiwan move toward independence.
“The cross-strait military balance increasingly favors China. Beijing has deployed over 1,100 short-range ballistic missiles opposite the island. In my view, Taiwan’s most pressing need is for new or modernized fighter aircraft,” Wortzel said.
Wortzel was speaking at a committee briefing on “China’s behavior and its impact on US interests” held on the first day of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) state visit to Washington.
Republican Representative David Rivera described Taiwan as “a bastion of democracy surrounded by a fortress of tyranny.”
NEW OR EXISTING
Wortzel said the big question was whether to sell Taipei F-16C/D aircraft, which have a long range and could be used for deep strikes inside China “if their [Taiwan’s] military chose to do that” or modernize the existing F-16A/B aircraft that Taiwan already possesses.
He said that he had talked with aviation engineers who thought that with the addition of brand new avionics, radar and targeting equipment, the A/Bs could be converted into “very capable aircraft.”
“They need the aircraft and I think they have to have that need addressed,” Wortzel said.
Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat, asked if there was any reason to believe that Taiwan was not capable of defending itself in case of an invasion.
“I don’t think that is the issue,” Wortzel said. “The issue is how capable would they be in doing it. They would have a hard time defending against 1,100 ballistic missiles. The missiles would do a lot of damage. They would be hard pressed if there were massive special operations insertions into Taiwan to disrupt the infrastructure.”
He said Taiwan could do more to strengthen airfields and storage facilities.
“If there is one thing they could do to immediately improve their capabilities, it would be to link all of their ground, naval, air assets and missiles so they could take part in cooperative target engagements,” Wortzel said. “They are developing their own multiple launch rocket systems and could probably use assistance with precision guided rounds.”
Asked about submarines, Wortzel said: “It’s a very difficult problem ... It’s a problem for the US Navy because we really don’t want to work on, or produce, diesel submarines, but they need these submarines.”
“The United States could get Costa Rica to buy a dozen submarines from Germany and then transfer them and it wouldn’t hurt anybody — if the Germans would look the other way on the re-transfer,” he said.
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