The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is capable of seizing Taiwanese islands, paralyzing the country’s defensive capabilities with cruise and short-range ballistic missiles, as well as by launching amphibious and airborne raids, to take Taiwan proper before forces from other nations could respond, the Ministry of National Defense said.
In the latest annual report on China’s military forces presented to the legislature, as stipulated in the National Defense Act (國防法), the ministry said that Beijing’s purpose in holding combined air-naval-ground exercises involving the PLA’s Second Artillery Force in recent years was to ensure that it would be able to launch a large-scale attack on Taiwan by next year.
According to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a Washington-based think tank, the Second Artillery Force is a strategic missile force of the PLA tasked with achieving strategic effects through direct engagement of key enemy targets.
China’s military modernization has improved the PLA’s capability to conduct “counterintervention operations” for “regional deterrence” missions to prevent foreign forces, like the US, from intervention in cross-strait conflicts, the report said.
The ministry said that the Second Artillery Force has continued to mass produce and install missiles despite the force already fielding an array of tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that can reach Taiwan.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that the Dong-Feng 21D, medium-range anti-ship ballistic missile has the capability to deny an aircraft carrier from a third country from intervening in a conflict between Taiwan and China.
If a conflict broke out, China would expect to take Taiwan in the shortest time by conducting intensive air, missile and naval strikes, as well as a blockade of the nation with the objective being to cause panic in the country, and conducting an amphibious and airborne operation to land here, the ministry said.
China has previously characterized its military policy as purely “defensive” in nature, but it has shifted the policy to “diversification of armed forces use,” as stated in a Chinese defense white paper this year, the ministry added.
In reaction to the US-Japan island defense exercise in January last year, China held a spate of drills across the East and South China seas to highlight its claims to sovereignty over the region and to declare that the PLA’s primary missions go beyond Taiwan to include the seas, which are both among China’s “core national interests,” the ministry said.
The ministry said that China’s military presence in the South and East China seas — including its declaration of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea last year — showed that Beijing’s desire to become a dominant power in Asia has endangered regional stability, with sporadic tensions with the US, Japan, South Korea and some Southeast Asian countries.
China’s defense spending has seen double-digit growth each year since 1989, and with a defense budget of US$132 billion this year, China is the biggest military spender in Asia and second only to the US in the world, the defense ministry said.
The ministry added that China views the years up until 2020 as a “strategic opportunity” to enhance its combat capabilities, while the military modernization it has undertaken over the years has turned its military into a force far beyond its need for self-defense.
Despite rapprochement in cross-strait relations, as the military imbalance between Taiwan and China grows and Taiwan remains the PLA’s primary mission, the military threats to the nation from China have not abated, the ministry said.
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