The US Department of State last month approved the sale of the M136 Volcano Vehicle-Launched Scatterable Mine System to Taiwan. The proposed sale should significantly boost Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare capabilities and help undermine a possible landing by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The Volcano dispenser contains 960 anti-tank mines and is capable of laying a minefield 1,100m long by 120m wide in four to 12 minutes.
However, the proposed sale has sparked concern from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and academics that it would turn Taiwan into “an island of mines.”
Academia Sinica’s Chu Yun-han (朱雲漢) said that “the US intended to Ukraine-ize Taiwan.” KMT Legislator Jessica Chen (陳玉珍) said that residents of Kinmen County have traumatic memories of landmines, as people have lost limbs after stepping on them. KMT Legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) accused the US of planting landmines everywhere except its own soil.
Other questions were raised about whether the landmines contravene the Ottawa Treaty aimed at eliminating anti-personnel mines around the world.
Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Chang Yuan-hsun (章元勳) said that mines placed by the Volcano system do not target personnel, but vehicles such as tanks and trucks, so its use would not contravene the Ottawa Treaty.
As the landmines would be placed on the ground’s surface, rather than underground as with traditional mines, they would be easy for people to identify. The mines’ timed self-destruct capability also helps to minimize accidental triggers and casualties.
That the KMT has the habit of opposing every arms deal with the US is nothing new, but this latest opposition is an example of cognitive warfare, in line with Chinese ideology.
By spreading fearmongering notions of waking up to find landmines in Taiwan, or that children could easily step on them when they go to the beach, pro-China supporters feign to look out for the public interest, while withholding important information such as that the landmines would only be deployed as a last resort and only if an invasion occurs.
Their conflating of traditional, dangerous anti-personnel landmines used during the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis with the anti-tank mines in question is illogical and ignores that the two have different objectives. The hidden agenda behind these supporters is questionable.
The M136 system is defensive in nature. Taiwan would not need to procure landmines if China was not threatening it with military force in the first place, which reveals the victim-blaming mindset of pro-China supporters. Although war is to be prevented at all costs, if it were to occur, the volcano system would make Taiwan a tough nut to crack, slow down the enemy’s advance and buy the armed forces time to retaliate with concentrated power. As one of the most essential and low-cost weapons for conducting “David vs Goliath” asymmetrical warfare, the system would strengthen land defense in addition to air and naval defenses, which would increase the difficulty of a Chinese invasion.
By opposing the sale based on feigned humanistic concern for Taiwanese, pro-China supporters are cruel to the army, and sympathetic to the PLA and its facilitation of an invasion. This latest controversy has been a trial of the public’s political literacy and judgement — the public cannot afford to let its guard down regarding disinformation.
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