Sat, Jan 20, 2007 - Page 3 News List

US academic advises against buying subs

PRIORITIES Leading military academic Bernard Cole said there was a `misfocus' in Taiwan on the three advanced weapons systems offered for sale by the US president

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A prominent US military academic advised Taiwan on Thursday to develop its own submarines instead of seeking to buy diesel-powered submarines offered by US President George W. Bush in 2001.

Bernard Cole, a professor at the National War College in Washing-ton, made his comments to Taiwan reporters after a speech in which he advised the Legislative Yuan to drop its debate on the purchase of three advanced weapons systems offered by the US, and instead pay more attention to the "mundane" military needs that will help deter any Chinese military attack on Taiwan.

"I would encourage Taiwan to begin an indigenous program to begin producing conventional-powered submarines," Cole told the reporters.

"Given the advanced state of Taiwan's electronics industry and its shipbuilding industry, I find it hard to believe that over the course of eight to ten years that Taiwan cannot produce an operational submarine."

"Many elements would have to be imported, such as periscopes and battery technology, but I believe that technology is available on world markets," he said.

In his speech, before a Brookings Institute luncheon arranged by former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush on Taiwan's defense posture, Cole argued that "there has been a misfocus on Taiwan's defense efforts, certainly in this country, on the three big items that President Bush allowed for sale in 2001."

"None of these has been purchased and perhaps none of them should be," Cole told an audience that included US and Taiwan officials, think tank scholars and journalists.

Cole's statements appeared to be at odds with the Bush administration, especially the Pentagon, which has strongly pressured Taipei over the years to approve the three items and which has gone as far as warning that overall US-Taiwan relations could hinge on the Legislative Yuan's decisions on the systems.

The three weapons systems are diesel submarines, PC-3 anti-submarine aircraft and PAC III anti-missile batteries, which until recently comprised the so-called special defense budget.

"The defense debate about Taiwan in this country, and I suspect to a good degree in Taiwan, is too easily focused on these special budget items, rather than focusing on increasing the regular defense budget'" said Cole, who recently published a book entitled, Taiwan's Security: History and Prospects.

Many of the military officers he spoke with over the years, Cole said, "understand that very clearly and are frustrated by some of the budget problems they are experiencing."

He said these officers want such "mundane" things as money to buy fuel for ships, funds for more aircraft flying hours or money for ammunition for artillery training.

Afterwards, in a short interview with the Taipei Times, Cole said he was not criticizing the Bush administration.

"I believe that the US defense department has the best interests at heart. I believe they're focused on special items because the President of the United States made them available to Taiwan, and to a large extent they represent the most advanced capabilities in their respective fields," he said.

The US, he added, would also like to see Taiwan increase its overall defense budget to assure that both advanced and mundane items are purchased.

He said he would advise the Legislative Yuan to "insure that the appropriate budget increase occurred in items that contribute to the most immediate military readiness, without a categorical look at the advanced US-offered weapon systems."

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