Sat, Feb 28, 2015 - Page 3 News List

‘Fifth-column’ threat inflated: retired colonel

ON GUARD:While Tseng Miao-hung said the threat has been exaggerated, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang urged the nation’s military intelligence to be vigilant

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Amid concerns over Chinese “fifth-column” units posing as tourists to gather intelligence and conduct covert operations in Taiwan, a retired army colonel said that the public and the Ministry of National Defense should not over-react because such units would be unlikely to pose any immediate threat, or to be capable of attacking and capturing a military base.

Tseng Miao-hung (曾淼泓), who taught at the National Defense University, was responding to a recent report in Defense News by Wu Shang-su (吳尚蘇), a research fellow in military studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The article said that most military bases in Taiwan are not well defended and that a Chinese fifth column with only basic firepower could paralyze the command chain and neutralize Taiwan’s air-defense network, helping pave the way for a People’s Liberation Army invasion by first taking over Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

A “fifth column” usually refers to a communist underground group or network that conducts clandestine activities to infiltrate society and destabilize a government from within through espionage, sabotage and disinformation.

“The Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan are on short-term visas, which have restrictions in terms of their travel. When their visa expires, then they go home. It is true some Chinese violate the rules and overstay, but I doubt there are enough professionally trained operatives who remain in this country to conduct such business. Most would not risk it, because they would be in danger of being exposed and getting caught,” Tseng said.

He does agree with Wu’s assessment that Taipei’s increasingly open policies with Beijing have opened more channels for Chinese to enter Taiwan, such as for tourism, education and commerce, while their non-combatant guise could create more strategic and tactical surprises than would regular troops.

However, Tseng said that instead, the biggest menace comes from the top of the military’s chain of command.

“I see President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) conducting his open-door policy and kowtowing to China as the most dangerous threat,” he said.

“Taiwanese citizens must stand up to resist Ma pushing his agenda of political and economic integration with China. That is the main worry for most people,” he added.

“Yes, China has been sending military agents to gather intelligence and some elements of a Chinese fifth column may be operating here, but they are probably small in number. However, Taiwan’s armed forces and the public should always stay alert to safeguard our military bases and airports from being infiltrated and overtaken in a surprise attack,” Tseng said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said that any threat posed by the presence of a Chinese “fifth column” in Taiwan must be taken seriously.

“My office has received tips from many people over the past few years and there are clear indications that some Chinese tourists were in fact People’s Liberation Army officials or intelligence agents coming here to gather information on our military bases and the deployment of the armed forces,” Tsai said.

“Their activities are undermining our national security. This is all due to Ma broadening the policy of permitting independent travelers and greater numbers of Chinese visitors coming to Taiwan,” he said.

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