Peace and stability in Taiwan could only be realized through “self strength” and the nation’s ability to defend itself, Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) said on Monday.
He said that the nation was collaborating closely with the Pentagon to develop asymmetrical defensive capabilities.
“It is not very juicy, but it will be effective in achieving our objective,” he said.
Yang was speaking at a symposium in Washington organized by the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies to discuss Taiwan’s response to the changing security environment.
He said that the administration of US President Barack Obama had given no new indications that it was ready to sell Taiwan the long-requested F-16C/D aircraft.
However, he stressed that while the more advanced fighters were still needed, Taiwan’s upgraded F-16A/Bs would provide formidable air defense.
Yang emphasized the importance of local weapons development, which he said would “boost confidence” and solve the problem of having to buy spare and replacement parts abroad.
He said Taiwan was continuously improving its weapons production capabilities, developing effective technologies and cutting costs.
Some of the new systems are not very sophisticated or high-tech, but fit Taiwan’s geography and environment and “most importantly, are cost-effective,” he said.
Yang said that Taiwan had never underestimated Beijing’s willingness or capacity to use force.
He said Beijing had never renounced the use of force and that the possibility that it might do so was “alive and kicking.”
It was obvious that Taiwan could not compete with Beijing and that already there was an imbalance in military capabilities, he said.
Asked about a recent spate of espionage cases in Taiwan, Yang stressed that the spying had been dtected by “internal” counter-espionage efforts.
He said the spies had been caught at an early stage, before their “behavior and activities” caused significant damage.
The sensitive and classified information stolen by the spies and passed on to China was “pretty much outdated — not current or recent” information, he said.
“In terms of compromising our interests, [the damage] has been kept to a minimum,” Yang said.
He said China had had “many opportunities” to try to penetrate Taiwan’s security apparatus, but that Taiwan “has fixed those gray areas and taken the necessary measures to cope with future attempts.”
Chinese espionage had not compromised Taiwanese military morale and had instead served to alert officers that “enemy threats are real and genuine and that the enemy is right next to you and not far away,” he said.
Director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the US National Defense University Phillip Saunders told the symposium that Taiwan’s Quadrennial Defense Review contained a “very frank assessment” of the nation’s security environment.
He said it contained many good ideas “especially in the area of innovative and asymmetrical approaches.”
Saunders said that by showing it was helping itself, Taiwan was keeping alive the possibility of “outside intervention” in the case of an attack by China.
He said that the commanders of China’s People’s Liberation Army could be deterred from attacking if Taiwan kept a good political relationship with the US and also maintained military capabilities that would allow it to hold out long enough for the US to intervene in the case of a conflict.
Saunders said he was “not sure” Taiwan was spending enough on defense.
“That’s part of keeping the possibility of US intervention alive,” he said. “If Taiwan’s not doing enough for its own defense, I think that has a corrosive effect in Washington.”