Monday, September 24, 2007

Defense News on KMT Defense Policy and on Arms Sales and Democracy

Veteran Taipei-based reporter Wendell Minnick reports on the KMT's defense policy, as they have announced it on paper.

The paper, “A New Military for a Secure and Peaceful Taiwan,” assures readers that the KMT will pursue cross-strait peace, maintain the status quo and resume cross-strait dialogue in order to avoid miscalcula¬tion and accidents. Such language would no doubt reassure U.S. government officials that Taiwan will not rock the boat under a KMT president.

On peace in the Taiwan Strait, the paper demands the removal of China’s more than 800 short-range ballistic missiles, the Dong Feng-11s and DF-15s, aimed at Taiwan.
“We will initiate military-to-military ex¬changes, and negotiate to establish confi¬dence-building measures (CBM) mecha¬nism,” the paper says. “We will negotiate with Beijing on a peace accord in order to keep the Taiwan Strait peaceful and prosperous.”

Finally! After years of approving Beijing pointing missiles at their children, the KMT has made it official policy to oppose Beijing's missile program. This would appear to be a sop to voters -- other than Ma Ying-jeou, few KMT officials have spoken out on the issue and there has been no sustained discourse on it.

But the paper also says that the KMT will not disregard the threat from Beijing, saying Taiwan will “harden” its defenses and defeat Chinese attempts to intimidate and invade the island.

“We will build a new military based on a de¬fensive ‘Hard ROC [Republic of China]’ strat¬egy,” it says. “We will harden up our defense to an extent that is unshakable with our high morale, undefeatable by blockade, unoccupi¬able under invasion, and uncrackable with our sustained resistance. When a war is unavoid¬able, we will effectively use our advantages in force, space and timing. We will attempt to win the first stage of conflict through rapid employment of forces, disturbing the enemy’s tempo of operations, and gain more time for international assistance.”

The KMT paper also reassures the public and Washington that the defense budgets of the future will be managed better. In 2001, the Bush administration offered Taiwan eight submarines, 12 P-3 Orion anti-subma¬rine aircraft and Patriot PAC-3 air defense missiles, and since that offer the budget for the items has been highly politicized in the legislative branch. The P-3 budget was just passed in June, but the effort took six years.

Submarines and PAC-3s are considered dead issues by many defense analysts in Tai¬wan. The budget mess has brought criticism from Washington that Taiwan does not take its defense seriously.

As always for US publications, the article does not mention the US role in driving the process. Minnick also plays down the fact that it was Ma's party that blocked the sale more than 60 times in Committee, and that Ma has broken his promises to the US on the arms purchase.

The paper suggests that a rational defense budget process is needed in the future: “Defense requirements, financial reality, cross-strait relations and public opinion are four cardinal considerations in shaping our de¬fense budget. Actual defense spending will depend on the progress of the implementa¬tion of the all-volunteers system. In princi¬ple, however, the defense expenditure will not be lower than 3 percent of the GDP. The ratio of expenses on personnel, operations and military investment will be 4:3:3 in the breakdown of defense budget. Special budg¬ets should not be used except for unexpected circumstances.”

The reference in the last sentence is to the current budget mess, when controversial weapons procurements of submarines, P-3C anti-sub aircraft, and Patriot missiles were bundled together, making them a perfect political target.


Minnick also turned in a piece on Taiwan's request to purchase F-16 fighters:

“We are supposed to be assessing the F-16s on the basis of Taiwan defense needs — now we are politicizing the process to our own detriment,” said Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow with the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.

Blumenthal served as senior director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the U.S. defense secretary’s international security office.

“In order to gain their cooperation on North Korea and other reasons, there is a burning desire to humor China, even if it means ignoring obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act,” said John Tkacik, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, Washington. “It is very sad to see the U.S. administration pressure a democratic friend at the encouragement of a communist dictatorship without the slightest acknowledgment of the real problem.”

One Taiwanese defense insider said the U.S. government’s position on the F-16 sale was “silly.” U.S. officials are refusing to accept a formal Taiwanese request for price and availability data on the F-16s — and then claiming that there is no such request, the insider said.

“The U.S. government has released P-3s, and the two sides are working out details on the letter of offer and acceptance [LOA],” the insider said. “The P-3s, as well as Patriot upgrades and a range of other countries’ programs, didn’t make the cut in terms of congressional notification before the last session ended. LOAs have to be concluded before end of year, and have to have the notification first before the LOAs can be signed.”

As usual, conservative John Tkacik of Heritage is out there pushing for Taiwan:

Sources say U.S. officials are also pressuring Taiwanese President Chen to back off plans to hold a national referendum on applying for membership in the United Nations.

Tkacik said Washington has a history of misreading the tea leaves floating in the Taiwan Strait.

“The administration gravely misunderstands the dynamics in Taiwan and China if it believes the Taiwanese referendum is the core problem,” he said. “China’s insistent threats to war are the core problem.”

Tkacik said no one argues that the United States has any philosophical or legal reason to oppose Taiwan’s desire to be legitimated by U.N. membership.

“So, why we should object to a democratic referendum on Taiwan to resolve the issue, when we ourselves have not taken a formal position or ‘made any determination’ about it, and instead permit the Chinese communists to define the issue, is a mystery,” he said. “It is plain to see that the main concern the United States has is about China’s threats of war. A more rational policy approach would, at the very least, temper U.S. confrontation on Taiwan’s referendum push with a public rebuke of China’s threats to war.”

"A more rational policy" is not likely to occur. But the hold up of the F-16 sale makes hollow US accusations that Taiwan is unwilling to defend itself: Taiwan wants the weapons -- and it is the US that is refusing to sell them.

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