Decades of Chinese military modernization has eroded many of Taiwan’s historical advantages in deterring aggression from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the US Department of Defense said in an annual report on Tuesday to the US Congress on military and security developments involving China.
Those advantages include the Taiwanese military’s technological superiority, the geographic advantages of island defense and the PLA’s inability to project sufficient power across the Taiwan Strait, the report said.
“Although Taiwan is taking important steps to build its war reserve stocks, grow its defense industrial base, improve joint operations and crisis response capabilities, and strengthen its officer and non-commissioned officer corps, these improvements only partially address Taiwan’s declining defensive advantages,” the report said.
Taiwan plans to transition to an all-volunteer military force by 2019, but the transition has slowed due to “severe difficulties” in recruiting enough personnel, the report added.
China’s military budget grew at an average of 8.5 percent per year from 2007 to last year and has grown to roughly 14 times that of Taiwan’s military budget, which remains at about 2 percent of GDP, the report said.
The PLA is capable of accomplishing various amphibious operations short of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, the report said, adding that China could invade Taiwan’s territories in the South China Sea, such as the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) or Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), or medium-sized islands such as Kinmen or Matsu.
However, such military operations would involve “significant, and possibly prohibitive, political risk, because it could galvanize pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan and generate international opposition,” the report said.
In the report, the department reiterated that the US maintains its “one China” policy based on the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.
“The United States opposes any unilateral change to the ‘status quo’ in the Taiwan Strait by either side and does not support Taiwan independence,” the report said.
Meanwhile, China has continued shore-based infrastructure construction in the South China Sea, the report said.
As of late last year, China was constructing 24 fighter hangars, fixed weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings and communication facilities at three outposts — Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑島), Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) and Subi Reef (Jhubi Reef, 渚碧礁), it added.
“Once all these facilities are complete, China will have the capacity to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands [Nansha Islands, 南沙群島],” the report said.
Two lottery players recently won NT$1 million (US$31,822) prizes on scratch lotto tickets they purchased on the same day at the same store in Taipei’s Ximending (西門町) area. Taiwan Lottery Co said that the lotto wins both happened on “20 million Super Red Envelope” (2,000萬超級紅包) scratch cards sold at a shop on Kunming Street on the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday on Thursday last week. The first of the winners was a married couple, who first won NT$2,000 on a NT$300 scratch lotto card, and then used their winnings to buy a NT$2,000 Super Red Envelope. After noticing that there
CAMBODIAN CON: The two men filmed videos with made-up content with a focus on purported human trafficking, beatings and sexual assaults by scammers Cambodian authorities yesterday sentenced two Taiwanese to two years in prison and a NT$30,000 fine each for staging a kidnapping in the southern coastal city of Sihanoukville which they live streamed online. Chen Neng-chuan (陳能釧), 31, and Lu Tsu-hsien (魯祖顯), 34, were convicted of inciting and causing social disorder a day after Cambodian police officials convened a news conference about their arrest. Chen, who goes by the online name “Goodnight Chicken” (晚安小雞), and Lu, known by the handle “Anow” (阿鬧), must each pay 4 million riels (US$982), according to a court filing. The court said the duo arrived in the Cambodian capital, Phnom
TAKE PRECAUTIONS: Never hike alone and prepare food, water and appropriate equipment for Taiwan’s mountains, particularly in the winter, officials said Two mountain hikers were rescued yesterday, a day after a body was airlifted out of Yushan National Park, one of several deaths related to mountaineering or hiking in the past two weeks, the Ministry of the Interior said yesterday. A Nantou County mountain rescue team called for a helicopter while responding to a call yesterday morning. They said a woman surnamed Chen (陳), 31, and a man surnamed Lin (林), 32, got lost in the mountains around the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道), while traveling west toward Dongpu Township (東埔). They were directed to a nearby alpine meadow, where the helicopter landed with four
‘CORRECT CALL’: The navy said the captain was right to send crew out to fix an issue with a buoy, and that the buckles connecting two of them to the safety line came loose Equipment and environmental reasons, not human error, were to blame for the loss of three submariners on Dec. 21 last year, the navy said yesterday. The navy would not punish any of the Hai Hu’s (海虎) crew after an investigation determined that the captain was correct in sending crew to retrieve a safety buoy, it said in a news release. Three crew members — a master chief petty officer surnamed Lin (林) and two petty officers surnamed Yen (顏) and Chang (張) — are still unaccounted for after being swept from the submarine’s deck by a wave while trying to retrieve the