Taiwan would be wrong to devote the money the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) government wants to spend on US diesel-powered subma-rines, but should devote its re-sources to such things as hardening potential targets of missile attacks and retaining air superiority in the Taiwan Strait, a leading US military analyst with close connections to the US defense establishment says.
The analyst, retired rear admiral Michael McDevitt, made his comments at a Washington seminar on Thursday discussing Taiwan's situation in the wake of the legislative elections.
He also warned Taipei against declaring independence, saying such a move could involve the US in the long-term defense of Taiwan against retribution from China.
McDevitt spoke disparagingly about the plan to spend more than US$12 billion on eight diesel submarines, noting that "Taiwan is talking about investing 66 percent of its special [defense] budget on eight submarines that won't even show up for another decade."
He also criticized the subs that Taiwan is considering buying from Washington as incapable of meeting the purpose Taiwan wants them to perform.
"These subs have a search rate that is so slow, they will cover such a small body of water, that that's the wrong way to look for the other guy's submarines," he told a seminar hosted by the George Washington University's Center for Strate-gic and International Relations.
He also said that the Pentagon would be happy if Taiwan reneged on the submarine purchase. That would run counter to a strenuous and prolonged effort by the Pentagon to force Taiwan to buy the subs, which would likely be built by US defense contractors.
"I'll bet you," McDevitt said, "given the fact that it has caused so much problem for the [US] Department of Defense, if Taiwan was tomorrow to walk into the Department of Defense and say, `We've decided to withdraw our request for submarines,' you would hear quiet applause all over the Department of Defense.
"They'd breath a sigh of relief: `Thank God, that would solve our problem.' That's my speculation," McDevitt said.
Noting that Chen has maintained that Taiwan would declare independence if it were attacked by China, McDevitt cautioned that maintaining independence would be harder than declaring it.
"All efforts by Taipei has been focused on how to become independent, but none of it is focused on how to sustain independence," he said.
If Taiwan declared indepen-dence, "you would have a situation in which the United States would either have to sign up with a security arrangement that protects that independent Taiwan essentially in perpetuity, or you would have to get Beijing to agree to it."
"More thought," he cautioned, "has to be placed on how do you sustain independence once you've declared it," he said.
On other Taiwanese defense areas, McDevitt said Taipei's main strategy should be maintaining air superiority against China in the Taiwan Strait.
He said that Taiwan should also boost defenses against a Chinese missile attack by hardening potential targets against such strikes: "Pouring concrete," as he put it.
"Remember, a ballistic missile is a relatively small warhead. So unless it lands in the middle of the room, the blast damage is not going to be really great. So, hardening does really make a difference," he said.
McDevitt advised Taiwan's government against relying on any aggressive strikes against China as a deterrent strategy.