Taiwan needs to devote sufficient resources to its defense, especially in cost-effective systems that leverage its strengths and can help deter China, a US official said at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Ellicott City, Maryland, on Monday.
David Helvey, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said in a speech that the goal is to create a “distributed, maneuverable and decentralized force,” which he described as “large numbers of small things.”
This force should be able to “operate in a degraded, electromagnetic environment and under a barrage of missile and air attacks,” Helvey said.
The systems best suited to Taiwan’s geography would be highly mobile coastal defense cruise missiles, short-range air defense, naval mines, small fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets, he said.
Investing in these systems would be better, because they are more “cost-effective and survivable” compared with more conventional platforms, such as fighter aircraft or large naval vessels, he added.
“Taiwan cannot match the People’s Republic of China’s defense spending, but it does not have to,” Helvey said.
The US is working with Taiwan in pursuing these goals and preparing “additional requests for other capabilities” that might be more suited to deterring China, he said.
Among the weapons Taiwan has asked for are M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, a request that the Ministry of National Defense confirmed last month.
Helvey said that he would not comment on specific requests made by Taiwan, but added that Washington is collaborating with Taiwan on further defense engagements.
The US would continue to help Taiwan implement the Overall Defense Concept, as “much remains to be done” to ensure that Taiwan can field a credible force “proficient in asymmetric warfare, force preservation and littoral battle,” he said.
Harvey condemned Beijing’s attempts to “intimidate, isolate and coerce” Taiwan by bullying it diplomatically, applying economic pressure, holding increasingly provocative military exercises and meddling in its elections.
“As the Taiwan people prepare to head to the polls again in this coming January’s elections, it is crucial that Taiwan’s elections remain free and fair, without foreign interference,” he said.
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