A US congressional commission is warning that the cross-strait military balance continues to shift decisively in favor of China, a draft of this year’s report to US Congress says.
The report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommends that Congress urge US President Barack Obama to remain alert to the dangers and says the Obama administration should continue talks with Taiwanese officials on the nation’s future defense needs.
Those talks should concentrate on “sales of arms and equipment such as may be necessary to offset the growing capabilities of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] for coercive power projection,” it said.
The report, which will officially go to Congress next week, says that the warming of relations between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has significantly reduced tensions across the Taiwan Strait and the US should support engagement between Taipei and Beijing.
“However, the underlying issues that divide the two sides remain,” it said.
“The deepening of cross-strait economic ties has not been matched by progress in security ties,” it said.
According to the report, the PRC’s military build-up continues to take place amid “constrained channels for crisis communication,” increasing regional tensions over conflicting territorial claims and “an ever present risk of accident or miscalculation involving the armed forces of the two sides.”
“Although it has tabled the issue for the time being, Beijing continues to insist on movement towards political reunification,” the report said.
“The divisions that remain are rooted in issues of identity and sovereignty that will not be easily resolved,” it said.
“As a supporter of the expansion of democratic freedoms around the world, it is in the interests of the US to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully and without the coercion of its population,” it added.
The report says that the US Department of Defense estimates that the PLA Air Force has 490 aircraft within unrefueled operational range of Taiwan.
At the same time, the PLA Second Artillery Corps has about 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles based in southeastern coastal areas within range of Taiwan.
And this year, newer and more advanced aircraft and missiles with improved ranges, payloads and accuracy have been introduced.
“Of particular concern to both Taiwan and US military defense planners is the steadily increasing capacity of Chinese military forces to employ extended-range strike warfare and other anti-access/area denial capabilities,” the report said.
“This growth in capabilities could seriously impact the future ability of the US military to surge forces into the Western Pacific in the event of a major regional contingency operation,” it said.
The report warns that Taiwan has been “rocked” by revelations of highly damaging cases of espionage conducted by military officers working for the PRC.
Such cases indicate “continuing and concerted efforts by Chinese intelligence services to penetrate military and national security agencies in Taiwan,” it said.
Controversy continued throughout this year, regarding the possibility of US sales of the more advanced C/D version of the F-16s requested by Taipei.
“There is some concern in the US and Taiwan that selling F-16C/Ds to Taiwan would set back progress on cross-strait relations,” the report said.
“There are also concerns as to whether or not Taiwan could afford to fund the upgrade of the F-16A/Bs as well as a potential purchase of the new F-16C/Ds,” it said.
During the late spring and summer of this year, there were conflicting signals as to whether or not Taiwan’s government was still interested in buying the F-16C/Ds.
Since then, there have been indications Taipei was giving serious consideration to dropping the F-16C/D purchase request in favor of pressing for the sale of even more advanced F-35 aircraft, it said.