Taiwanese Defense Minister Yen De-fa has sought to reassure people that the Taiwanese army will always be war-ready to defend the self-governed island. His remarks were in response to the latest volley of skepticism about the military’s strength vis-à-vis that of the People’s Liberation Army.
“Taiwanese do not need to worry,” Yen said at a hearing at the Legislative Yuan last Friday. “The military is capable of ensuring national security and defending the nation.”
He highlighted the newly devised “asymmetric warfare tactics” to rely on radar systems and anti-surface missiles and missile boats to stem a PLA invasion from the sea. He drew attention to the ministry’s plans to upgrade fighter jets including the F-16 fleet, the new armored-vehicle and attack-tank brigades safeguarding Taipei, and the iron-clad security co-guarantee by the US and Japan. All of which he said justified his confidence and peace of mind.
CNN reported last week that the Pentagon was planning a show of force in areas close to the Beijing-claimed islets and atolls in the South China Sea. The exercise next month will also include the Taiwan Strait in a “freedom of navigation” gesture.
In the report, CNN quoted several unnamed US military officials as saying that the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet had drawn up a classified proposal to carry out a global show of force to serve as a warning to China and to demonstrate that the US is prepared to deter and counter their military actions.
When asked by Taiwanese lawmakers if the navy would join forces with US warships for the November drill off the Taiwan Strait, Yen merely said his ministry was not in a position to comment on the Pentagon’s future exercises.
But the right-wing Washington-based Heritage Foundation is not as optimistic as Yen about Taiwan’s security environment.
In its 494-page annual report analyzing America’s military strength, the think-tank described Taiwan as an “essential part of the PLA’s “new historic missions shaping PLA acquisitions and military planning.”
“Two decades of double-digit increases in China’s announced defense budget have produced a significantly more modern PLA, much of which remains focused on a Taiwan contingency,” it said.
The Chinese have more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, a modernized air force, and growing numbers of modern surface combatants and diesel-electric submarines capable of mounting a blockade, the report said.
“In the absence of a strong American presence, [Beijing] might be willing to go farther than this,” it added, stressing that Beijing’s goal was to “win with only minimal resistance from Taiwan before the US can organize an effective response.”
Citing a warning from Admiral Harry Harris, the outgoing head of the US Pacific Command, the report said the US was in danger of losing the next arms race with China. It said this was because of China’s heavy investment in new military technologies, including hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence, and advanced space and cyber capabilities.