Sun, Apr 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Arms procurement necessary for the nation's survival

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stokes served for seven years as the Secretary of Defense's country director for Taiwan. He retired from the US government one year ago and moved to Taiwan to work in the private sector. He is the author of a widely cited book about the People's Liberation Army, `China's strategic modernization,' and has published numerous articles on cross-strait security issues. He is also a senior associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In an interview with `Taipei Times' staff reporter Mac William Bishop, Stokes explains the potential consequences if the legislature fails to pass the special arms budget


Retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stokes speaks during an interview with the Taipei Times Friday.


Taipei Times: Having been responsible for defense policy toward Taiwan for almost seven years under the Clinton and Bush administrations, you are widely considered to be the architect of US defense relations with Taiwan, and are often credited with playing a role in the release of the items contained in the special budget by the Bush administration. Now that you are retired and in the defense business, how do you and your company stand to profit from the items contained in the special budget?

Mark Stokes (石明凱): I personally would not profit at all. I have a basic salary that would not be affected one way or the other. Besides, people who know me understand that my motives transcend profit. Having served so long in the policy arena, it is difficult not to care about Taiwan's security.

TT: Opponents of the special budget have asserted that the procurement of the PAC-3 missile defense system, eight diesel-powered submarines and 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft will spark an arms race. Is this a valid assertion?

Stokes: There is already an arms race in the Taiwan Strait that has been underway for years. But only one side is racing, and it is not Taiwan. Taiwan cannot compete with China in an arms race. The idea is to raise the costs to Beijing of using force against Taiwan, and to lengthen the amount of time that Taiwan can sustain a defense.

TT: While in government, the conservative Washington Times dubbed you the Pentagon's leading expert on the Chinese military. From your perspective, how serious is the military threat to Taiwan?

Stokes: Extremely serious and growing more serious by the day. The nature of the threat has been discussed at length in US Department of Defense reports to Congress and through Director of Central Intelligence testimony to Congress. Since 1999, the People's Republic of China [PRC] has embarked on a concentrated and aggressive campaign to diversify its options in order to force Taiwan's political and military capitulation in an increasingly brief period of time.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stokes, USAF (Ret.)

* Date of birth: Nov. 30, 1960.

* Place of birth: Kansas City, Missouri.

* Education: Bachelor of Arts in History, Texas A&M University; Master's degree in International Relations/Strategic Studies from Boston University; Master's degree in Asian Studies, US Naval Postgraduate School.

* Career: Country director, People's Republic of China, Taiwan and Mongolia for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; Chief, Northeast Asia Branch, Regional Plans and Issues Division, USAF headquarters; Assistant air attache, US Embassy, Beijing.

* Publications: "China's Strategic Modernization," contributor to "China and Weapons of Mass Destruction," "PLA Space and Theater Missile Development," "China's Growing Military Power," "The Lessons of History" and "The Chinese Joint Aerospace Campaign."

First, as US Defense Department reports have indicated, the PRC could invade and occupy Taiwan today -- barring US intervention -- and assuming it were willing to bear high political and military costs. Beijing's objectives in its force modernization are to lower these costs by reducing warning time, decapitating Taiwan's political and military leadership, causing as much confusion as possible, and inserting a sizable force into Taipei before the US could even make a decision on how to respond. Beijing also is diversifying its options for the use of limited force to achieve limited political objectives. The PRC is focused on ways to keep the US at bay while it attains its military objectives in Taiwan.

TT: But isn't this just alarmist rhetoric? Military capabilities aside, do you really believe that Beijing has the political will to attack Taiwan?

Stokes: Beijing's political will to use force against Taiwan depends upon a range of factors. The so-called "red lines" are not so clear. Much depends on specific actions taken by Taiwan's political leadership that could precipitate a crisis, internal factors within China, how confident the PRC is in its ability to achieve its political and military objectives at minimum cost, Taiwan's military strength and national will, Beijing's perception of the willingness and ability of the United States to intervene quickly and effectively.

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