The head of the National Security Bureau (NSB) yesterday said China’s first aircraft carrier would likely start training exercises at sea toward the end of this year.
Bureau Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) told a meeting of the the legislature’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee that while the aircraft carrier — an old carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1998, which has undergone refurbishing work in Dalian since 2002 — would commence training operations around that time, it should be noted that the vessel also has combat capabilities.
Tsai’s comment was in response to a question by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) on whether the aircraft carrier was solely for training or if it could play a combat role.
Tsai said the Chinese were also developing combat aircraft based on Russian models capable of landing in and taking off from aircraft carriers.
On rumors that Beijing could rename the Varyag, “Shi Lang,” after the Qing Dynasty admiral who conquered what is now known as Taiwan in 1681, Tsai said if this was the case, then the political implications would be obvious.
Lin told the meeting the impact of China’s first aircraft -carrier would be most felt in the South China Sea, which would compel countries in the region to strengthen their military deployment in the sea.
As Taiping Island (太平島) is very far from Taiwan, any military dispute occurring there would make it difficult for Taiwan to have the upper hand militarily.
Lin also asked Tsai to comment on the impact of a downsizing of the Republic of China military police, which usually ensures security during residential elections.
Tsai said plans by the Ministry of National Defense to cut 1,000 military police personnel and reassign 2,500 to other units would, in the long term, affect security details.
Tsai also confirmed that a new generation of secure cellphones developed by a Taiwanese firm for bureau officials would enter service tomorrow.
The most important function of the cellphone was its ability to keep calls confidential, Tsai said, adding that the tracking function has been disabled and though the cellphone does have a camera function, it is usually turned off.
The new secure cellphone has an encoded chip that enables the deletion of classified data and turns the phone into a normal unsecured cellphone if abnormal activity is detected, a bureau official said.