China’s Fuzhou-Pingtan railway is not a military threat to Taiwan, a defense expert said on Saturday as Beijing opened a rail bridge that links Pingtan Island to Fuzhou Province.
Pingtan Island is about 130km northwest of Taiwan and the new bridge could reportedly allow train movements between China’s Fuzhou and the island in as little as 35 minutes.
Hsu Chih-hsiang (許智翔), a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the railway’s economic and political value is greater than its military potential to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Well-utilized railways could greatly benefit an army, as the Prussians demonstrated in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, but insecure railways could become a bane to operations, as Nazi Germany discovered during its invation of Russia in 1941, he said.
The Fuzhou-Pingtan railway’s military usefulness is constrained by its proximity to Taiwan, which leaves it vulnerable to Taiwan’s weapons systems, he said.
The AGM-84H stand-off land attack missiles which Taiwan is planning to buy from the US could be launched from F-16s to a range of 270km, while the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has an effective range of 300km, he said.
“For the PLA, Pingtan Island is not a safe area for troop assembly, logistics or firepower projection,” Hsu said. “This is why it is important for our armed forces to possess long-range firepower capable of strategic deterrence and showing them that we can reach out and touch them.”
PLA preparations to invade Taiwan would almost certainly be detected by the US and Taiwan as soon as they were begun, he said.
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