Taiwan’s military will be able to withstand a Chinese attack for one month, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) told the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday.
Yen was responding to a question from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) about how well the military would be able to withstand a full-scale attack by China without help from the US.
Prompted by a pessimistic article written by University of Chicago political science professor John Mearsheimer, titled “Say Goodbye to Taiwan,” Hsueh asked Yen whether the military has built up an adequate defense capability over the years.
Before Yen could answer, a military officer standing next to him told the minister “about 21 to 28 days” — a comment that was picked up by the legislature’s video-on-demand system.
However, Yen told Hsueh that the military could withstand an assault for “at least one month.”
“How great you are,” Hsueh responded.
Hsueh said that the most common publicly stated estimate about the length of Taiwanese resistance to a Chinese attack until US help arrives was two weeks — made when Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) and Lee Jye (李傑) were defense ministers during the former DPP administration.
Tang served from 2002 to 2004 and Lee from 2004 to 2007.
Pressed by Hsueh to specify the improvements the military has made since the DPP administration, Yen said that the estimate that the military was able to deal with China in an event of war “for 30 days” was based on conclusions drawn from various war games.
Yen was also asked by several lawmakers about how the ministry would respond to China’s announcement that it would increase its military spending this year by 12.2 percent to 808.23 billion yuan (US$131 billion), twice the size of Taiwan’s entire annual government budget.
Taiwan is not competing with China in an arms race, but has been developing a military force with “effective deterrence, resolute defense” capabilities and forged ahead with a variety of asymmetrical instruments of power, such as information and electronic warfare capabilities, Yen said.
The military has the ability to defend the country and the people, he said.
“Any change in whatever kind of scenario [you can think of] will not endanger people’s lives or the property,” Yen added.
The defense ministry is planning to submit a formal request to the US for assistance in acquiring submarines because “submarines are of great importance in building up effective military deterrence,” he said.
The government would continue its efforts to purchase submarines from the US even as it continues talks with Washington about technology transfers to help Taiwan jumpstart its own sub program.
“The initial response [to the technology transfer request] has been positive. They will assist us in meeting our goal,” Yen said in response to questions from DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).
He brushed off lawmakers’ concerns about the move from military conscription to an all-volunteer force given the low recruitment numbers, saying that the military would stick to plans to downsize to between 170,000 and 190,000 personnel from the current 215,000 over a five-year period beginning next year.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said he learned from military sources that the planned cuts were not based on an assessment of the nation’s defense needs because the assessment will not be finished until the end of this year.
Yen denied this, saying that the ministry had gone through all the necessary procedures to calculate the force size required to defend the country before it decided to downsize troop numbers.