Taiwan’s latest national defense report highlights an increasing military threat from China, saying that Beijing plans to boost its combat capabilities to the point at which it could mount a full cross-strait attack.
China’s combat capabilities are expected to reach that level in 2020, according to the 12th National Defense Report released by the Ministry of National Defense at a press conference yesterday.
The report said China has been developing and deploying various types of new high-end weapons, as well as advanced cyberattack and defense technologies.
China also plans to ramp up its combat capabilities to the level where it could launch an all-out attack on Taiwan, including on outlying islands, the report said.
“Combined operations” remain the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s basic combat model and its military modernization is aimed at developing a credible deterrent to any third-party intervention in a possible conflict with Taiwan, the report said.
For example, China’s deployment of the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile, the so-called “aircraft carrier-killer,” is aimed at hitting US aircraft carriers, said Cheng Yun-peng (成雲鵬), director-general of the ministry’s Department of Strategic Planning.
Cheng said that the 2020 timeframe is a rough estimate, but that China was making major advances in its arsenal.
In the face of the military imbalance skewed in China’s favor, Taiwan’s military is adhering to a concept of innovative, asymmetric warfare, in line with national defense policies, Cheng said at the news conference.
In an effort to maintain adequate self-defense capabilities, Taiwan is developing its own weapons and is also seeking to purchase arms from other countries, he added.
Currently, Taiwan’s indigenous Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles — developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology — have the ability to counter the threat of Chinese amphibious and aircraft carrier attacks, Cheng said.
In terms of jet fighters, Taiwan needs more advanced aircraft than its existing fleet of F-16A/Bs, which are currently being upgraded with the help of the US, Cheng said.
Military analysts say that China has at least 1,600 ballistic missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait.
Despite the potential military threat, Taiwan is cutting its own defense spending, with the number of active-duty soldiers due to be reduced to 215,000 next year from the current 240,000.
The report also covered other issues, such as the military’s 13 proposed reforms, which focus on ensuring human rights, making sure service members have a channel for filing complaints and reporting abuses, and reviewing disciplinary confinement regulations.
The reform drive is also meant to improve administrative procedures for disciplinary confinement and the facilities that military personnel are confined in, as well as establishing reasonable punitive exercises for detainees, the report said.
The focus on a complaint mechanism and confinement was a direct response to the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died in July while serving his mandatory military service due to heat exhaustion allegedly caused by intensive training administered while in detention.
The incident sparked a public outcry, prompted the resignation of then-minister of defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and led the government to pass legislation to turn over military trials to civilian courts during peacetime.