Tue, Feb 26, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Military can hold off China: minister

LEGISLATIVE GRILLING:While the defense minister answered questions about military doctrine and the ability to hold out against a PLA attack, he refused to discuss specifics

By Aaron Tu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa answers questions from Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee members yesterday at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

The nation’s armed forces can hold the line against China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) yesterday told the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

During a question-and-answer session, Yen was asked to evaluate the comparative military capabilities of Taiwan and China, three days after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) told CNN that Taiwan was “capable of holding off any first waves of attacks” by China.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) asked what the military’s capabilities were to respond to a PLA “first strike,” and whether it had the ability to mount a pre-emptive strike against China.

The nation’s two-staged military doctrine is to enact force protection, followed by the deployment of combat power, Yen told Lo.

“For force protection, we must be capable of absorbing the first strike, so critical and dependable forces are mechanized, and they will not stay still for the enemy to hit,” he said. “For deploying combat power, we will use counterattacks and early suppression of the enemy, as well as other actions.”

“As for pre-emptive capabilities, we possess them, but we are not at liberty to discuss them,” he said.

However, he added that those capabilities are for creating a multi-layered deterrence, not for launching first strikes.

When DPP Legislator Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕) asked Yen to elaborate on the national military doctrine, the minister said Taiwan was not engaged in an arms race with China and the military relies on quality to overcome quantity.

To augment force protection, the ministry is working with local governments to mobilize assets necessary to protect military installations against Chinese guided missiles, in conjunction with concealment and mobility measures, he said.

The armed forces would deploy mobile and decisive weapons systems to fight at the place and time of its choosing, with an emphasis on using the terrain to maximize asymmetric warfare capabilities in the counter-air, counter-naval and counter-amphibious operational phases of such a war, Yen said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator William Tseng (曾銘宗) asked Yen to gauge the time the military could hold out against the PLA, and what the armed forces would do if war broke out as the result of political conflict between independence and unification factions.

While the military does not quantify defensive time frames for doctrinal reasons, “we have full confidence and capability to stay on top of regional developments and defend our homeland,” Yen said.

The military’s core value is its constitutional duty to defend the Republic of China and the citizens residing within its domain, he said.

The US is certain to intervene if regional security developments threaten its national interests and Japan could possibly be involved, he said, adding that the ministry could not speak for the intentions of the Philippines.

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