The Pentagon has “broadened its concern” about Taiwan’s defense spending, its seriousness about self-defense and the protection of secrets, a report by the US Congressional Research Service says.
Taiwan’s operational readiness, critical infrastructure protection and deterrence programs are also worrying Washington.
Titled Taiwan: Major US Arms Sales Since 1990, the 60-page report by specialist in Asian security affairs Shirley Kan says that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has “failed to invest” in defense at the bipartisan goal of budgeting 3 percent of GDP.
Between 2004 and 2011, US$7.2 billion in US arms has been delivered to Taiwan, making the nation Washington’s fifth-largest customer after Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Australia, the report said.
The report also reveals that the US’ Pentagon submitted a classified study to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 3 this year on the capabilities and readiness of Taiwan’s air force.
The document, which remains top secret, is expected to play a central role in future decisions on selling advanced fighter aircraft to the nation.
“The persistent question for US decisionmakers in the military, administration and Congress is whether the US would go to war with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] over Taiwan and the purpose of any conflict,” the report said.
While some have called for a “clear commitment” to shore up deterrence, others have argued that the US should avoid a war with China and reconsider arms sales to Taiwan.
“Another option would be to limit US assistance to arms sales and related transfers, while not committing US forces,” the report said.
It says that since 2002, some members of US Congress have expressed “increasing concerns” about Taiwan’s commitment to its self-defense, a lack of leadership and its limited contributions to international security.
“Some US observers and officials have urged Taiwan’s civilian and military leaders to place more urgent priority on upgrading Taiwan’s self-defense capability and to increase defense spending, while noting that Taiwan has planned an independent defense since it cannot assume foreign help,” the report says.
The report says there are concerns that Taiwan’s military is “hollowing out,” partly due to problems in recruitment and retention, while trying to shift to an all-volunteer force by next year, and partly due to insufficient investment and commitment by leadership.
“Greater cross-strait integration has raised concerns about the leakage of military technology, intelligence and other secrets from Taiwan to mainland China,” the report says. “There have been concerns about structural weaknesses in Taiwan that could allow for broad and unquestioned access to secrets, particularly by general and flag officers or senior civilian officials.”
The report found that Chinese espionage has been aggressive and comprehensive in targeting the Taiwanese military.
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