A blue-ribbon US government advisory panel has found that China already enjoys a substantial military edge over Taiwan, and the panel appears ready to recommend a series of tough actions the US should take to save Taiwan in case of a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission is also expected to urge the US to push the Legislative Yuan again to approve the purchase of the weapons package that the pan-blue lawmakers have stymied for the past two years.
It also warns about a "window of vulnerability" between 2008 and 2015 in which the US might not be able to effectively counter Chinese military action against Taiwan.
The commission, which was created by the US Congress in 2000, is meeting this week in Washington to give final approval to its annual congressional report, which is set to be released next month. The panel has been holding hearings with expert witnesses throughout the year on strategic and economic issues involving China, on which the report is based.
A copy of the draft report and recommendations was obtained by the Taipei Times. The commission has already reviewed the draft twice, and the final version is not expected to differ markedly from the draft.
Among the recommendations drawn up by the commission's staff for likely approval this week are:
* That the US assign more nuclear attack submarines to the Pacific for possible use in a Chinese invasion or other military attack on Taiwan, to boost the US ability to locate and destroy Chinese submarines and protect US warships against Chinese subs and surface weapons. The US submarines could also help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, mine-laying, landing of special forces and missile strikes.
* That the Pentagon and US Department of State should report to Congress on possible access to ports and bases in the Philippines, Japan and Singapore for use in case of a crisis over Taiwan. The speed and force with which the US would respond to a Taiwan Strait crisis would be affected by its access to such facilities.
* That US naval anti-submarine and anti-mine warfare capabilities be improved.
* That the US "places a high priority on conducting joint military exercises with allies in the Asia-Pacific region in order to develop and hone interoperability that will be critical in any crisis [in the Strait] ... demonstrating US resolve and determination in responding to a crisis in the region."
"The cross-strait military balance of power currently substantially favors the mainland [sic]," the draft commission report says.
"China possesses advanced aircraft, submarines, surface vessels and ballistic missiles, in greater quantities and, in many cases, equal or greater sophistication, than Taiwan's," it says.
That would render Taiwan unable to prevent China from winning any all-out cross-strait military conflict.
"Taiwan is growing increasingly dependent on the threat of intervention from the United States to deter China from initiating hostile action against Taiwan, and on US intervention to survive any attack or invasion China launches," the report says.
The commission, made up of China military specialists and other experts, found that China's navy is "capable of considerably slowing the arrival of any naval force" that attempts to intervene in a Taiwan Strait crisis.
The draft report says many experts agree that the US faces a 2008-2015 "window of vulnerability" if the US made a decision to intervene militarily "in a pre-conflict China-Taiwan crisis or in a China-Taiwan crisis."
"Many of the Chinese modernization programs focused on Taiwan, including weapons systems such as submarines, destroyers, cruise missiles, and maneuverable ballistic missiles, and advances in C4ISR [command and control-related capabilities] and targeting, will be deployed around or soon after 2008, while some US capabilities to defeat these advances, such as ballistic missile defenses, littoral strike assets, and an integrated anti-submarine warfare network, probably will not become operational until approximately 2015," the draft report says.
This, it says, will "decrease the deterrent effect of the possibility of US intervention in a China-Taiwan conflict."