Taiwan Report Ambiguous On Chinese Threat

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) released the English-language version of its biennial 11th National Defense Report during an...

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) released the English-language version of its biennial 11th National Defense Report during an Aug. 22 press conference.

Members of the media attending the conference received the report, a comic book version of the report, an 8-inch action figure (a Taiwan Navy officer peering through binoculars) and a 2-inch bobblehead doll of a smiling MND officer.

Like past National Defense reports, ambiguous terms are used to describe China's military threat. China is deploying "various ballistic and cruise missiles." China is developing "anti-access/area denial" capabilities. The Second Artillery Corps "has some capability of attacking aircraft carriers." According to "foreign and domestic think tanks," the Chinese Navy will deploy aircraft carriers by 2020. "Asia-Pacific countries remain suspicious" of China's military modernization efforts.

The report is remarkably weak in comparison with the Pentagon's controversial annual Report on China's Military Modernization, expected to be released this week. The MND report fails to mention that China has about 1,500 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. Though Taiwan is working harder not to offend China since Ma Ying-jeou won the Taiwan presidency in 2008, past reports have always been light on details and nonconfrontational.

The report acknowledges that cross-strait ties have improved since 2008, and the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in June 2010 further enhanced peaceful co-existence, though "its long-term effects on our participation in regional economic integration will require further evaluation."

From a military perspective, China's threat to Taiwan remains "unabated," though the report fails to be explicit.

Of interest, the report does indicate that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has added the People's Armed Police (PAP) to "its array of forces for operations against Taiwan."

The PAP is a paramilitary police force known for its brutality in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur. The MND report fails to mention PAP's history of thuggery, or what Taiwan's citizenry might expect from PAP forces if they were to occupy the island.

Local defense analysts said they expect widespread systematic rape and pillaging during an invasion in an effort to subjugate the island's residents.

The report outlines the various campaigns PLA could wage against Taiwan, beginning with the likely use of military intimidation, a partial blockade, "firepower strikes" and, finally, invasion.

Military intimidation strategies would include intensifying military activities, adjusting deployment, and using the media to publicize military risks in the Taiwan Strait with the objective of causing a panic in Taiwan.

The PLA also may use its Air Force and Navy to set up partial blockades against Taiwan's key ports and harass the outer islands, which would "weaken the morale of our military and civilians, sever our economic lifeline, deteriorate our living environment, and force us to seek peace agreements."

The PLA's Second Artillery Corps also could launch missiles to destroy command-and-control hubs, political and economic centers and symbolic targets. The attacks would begin slowly and escalate to cripple Taiwan's air defense, sea control and counterstrike systems, "thus shattering our will to fight, forcing us to surrender, or creating a foundation for subsequent strategic operations."

China also might use a "Triphibian Invasion" with the following sequence: preliminary engagement, electromagnetic control operations, air superiority operations, sea control operations and landing. China will "aim for a short battle and a quick victory before foreign forces [the U.S. military] can intervene, thus establishing a political reality that will prevent further intervention."

The report concludes that a Normandy-style invasion of Taiwan is not a likely option. China lacks the amphibious transport craft needed to successfully invade Taiwan. No mention is made in the report of past concerns about a decapitation strategy using special operations forces and fifth column elements to take the capital city of Taipei first.

None of these scenarios are new.

The report makes little mention of Taiwan's dependence on U.S. military support in the event of a war. Taiwan's request for new F-16C/D fighter jets is only mentioned once in the report.

Due to Chinese pressure, the U.S. has delayed the release of F-16C/Ds and submarines since 2006 and 2001, respectively. The U.S. State Department has indicated that a decision on the F-16C/Ds would be made by Oct. 1, which is China's National Day.

The report redefines the word "victory" in terms of fighting a war with China. "Considering the military strength of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, we must use a practical attitude to reconsider the definition of 'victory' if we are to achieve 'resolute defense and credible deterrence.'"

Therefore, the report says the definition of "victory" has been readjusted from "defeating the enemy in a full confrontation" to "striking the enemy halfway across the Taiwan Strait and preventing the enemy from landing and establishing lodgment."

The meaning of "victory" is redefined because "the force structure of the Armed Forces was planned with a focus on gaining a relative advantage in this critical period of war."

The result will allow for a "small and superb, strong and smart" force to achieve "resolute defense," but also avoid engaging in an "armaments race" with China, which might influence Taiwan's overall competitiveness.

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