If Taiwan does not get the F-16C/D aircraft it seeks from the US to replace its aging fleet, Taipei will lose its leverage and face immediate challenges in fulfilling its responsibilities of preserving peace and stability in Asia, Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) told a defense magazine in an interview published yesterday.
“Washington sometimes does not get the right picture of Taiwan’s responsibility. That is part of the reason we want new fighters,” Yang told Defense News in a wide-ranging interview. “Otherwise, the US has to send its own military to replace our daily patrols in the region.”
On the implications of the US announcing on Oct. 1 — the date set last month for an official decision on the matter — that it would proceed with the sale, Yang said Beijing had already sent strong warnings to Washington.
“They will be extremely unpleasant and upset, as they always are,” he said.
Asked what retaliatory measures Beijing would likely take, Yang said he did not believe Beijing would adopt drastic economic actions against the US.
“They have a lot of investments, including huge foreign reserves in US banks. If the US economy suffers, Beijing suffers,” he said.
More likely, Yang said, was that Beijing would cut off regular military exchanges.
“But if we look at previous experiences, they will be downgraded for a while, but they [the US and China] have strong mutual interests binding each other together. So they have to make a decision on what will be the next step,” he said.
Commenting on a scenario in which China would take control of Taiwan and place bases here, Yang said this would open the door for military and power projection “not only into the East China Sea, but also into the South China Sea.”
“Taiwan would become an important hub and stepping stone for China to exert and expand its presence in the South China Sea, which is certainly not in the US’ interest. It would immediately challenge US strategic calculations and its security umbrella in the Asia--Pacific region,” Yang said. “If Taiwan becomes part of China in terms of political integration in the future, then immediately the United States will lose a vital interest in this part of the world.”
On the possibility of Taiwan stepping up its military presence on Taiping Island (太平島) in the South China Sea, Yang said the Ministry of National Defense was not ruling out that option.
“But the current decision adopted by the National Security Council and the president is to improve and reinforce the Coast Guard’s capability on the island," Yang said. “[However,] We will never allow China to step onto the island. It is part of our territory, under our management. There is no room for compromise.”
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