Sunday, October 19, 2008

Defense Round Up

I'm back from spending a week in Washington, DC, and my desk overfloweth with stuff to blog on.

Wendell Minnick has a slew of defense-related stuff out there today. Mei Fu-hsing, Director of the Taiwan Defense Review, responded to William Murray's recent paper on the "porcupine" strategy for Taiwan, which I blogged on a few weeks ago (just put porcupine in the search box). Minnick posts the full translation...a taste:

There are other flaws in Murray’s report. Without sea and air superiority, it suggests using submarine mines to hinder Chinese troop landings; unaware of the fact that sea and air superiority is exactly what is needed to prevent the Chinese from effectively removing the submarine mines Taiwan deploys. It argues since runways are vulnerable to sabotage, the air force can be easily rendered useless, not knowing Taiwan should seriously consider using STOVL warplanes to maintain dependable air superiority. In addition, the report says submarines are not efficient enough in conducting anti-submarine operations and should therefore be eliminated, and makes no reference to the critical role submarines play in anti-submarine training exercises during peacetime and anti-landing operations during wartime, as well as their strategic value of being a bargaining chip in negotiations.

The assumptions on which the report is based (sudden massive missile attacks and amphibious land assault) contradict the conditions whose presence would result in Cross-strait conflict under Ma’s peacemaking policy and are unable to deal with China’s other forms of military threat to Taiwan.

It's not a very strong critique, but nevertheless in its indignant tone lies recognition of both the threat Murray's argument represents to Taiwan-US military relations, and the problems of Murray's thesis for the political aspects of a Taiwan-China war. Minnick also has a RAND study that suggests that China may be able to defeat US forces over the Taiwan Strait by 2020:

According to the study, U.S. aircraft carriers and air bases would be threatened by Chinese development of anti-ship ballistic missiles, the fielding of diesel and nuclear submarines equipped with torpedoes and SS-N-22 and SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), fighters and bombers carrying ASCMs and HARMs, and new ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

The report states that 34 missiles with submunition warheads could cover all parking ramps at Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa.

An "attack like this could damage, destroy or strand 75 percent of aircraft based at Kadena," it says.

In contrast, many Chinese air bases are harder than Kadena, with some "super-hard underground hangers."

To make matters worse, Kadena is the only U.S. air base within 500 nautical miles of the Taiwan Strait, whereas China has 27.

The mention of Okinawa is a reminder that any US-China conflict is likely to involve Japan, where Chinese subs have been increasing their surveillance activities. Meanwhile a commentary in Taiwan Journal regards the recent arms sale as a positive sign for US support of Ma Ying-jeou's leap into China's orbit....while the US is considering selling the remaining key weapons, F-16s and Blackhawk helicopters:

According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, the ROC request for the Black Hawks and submarines is still in play. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an official from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs told CNA Oct. 6 that the internal foreign military sales process is continuing. "We have turned down nothing," the official said. "The U.S. government is faithfully implementing the TRA and will continue to evaluate two other pending arms sales to Taiwan."

An issue of greater concern is the status of a separate request by the ROC for 66 advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets. Military analysts say Taiwan urgently needs those aircraft in order to maintain a balance of air power over the strait. Lin Chong-pin, a professor in the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei County and Taiwan's former deputy minister of defense, said that with the rapid modernization of the mainland Chinese People's Liberation Army, "Taiwan's last remaining edge in air supremacy would be gone if the F-16s were not forthcoming."
At the same time, officials in the US are attributing China's refusal to participate in a conference call with the Powers and Iran on Iran's nuclear program to the US arms sale to Taiwan. This has not been confirmed by Chinese sources.

I did not talk to many people, but it seems that there's a lot of quiet pessimism among Taiwan's friends in Washington about Taiwan's ability to keep China at arms length. As the catastrophic effects of the last eight years of venality and incompetence in Washington continue to ramify over the years, China continues to expand, and Taiwan lurches closer to China, I see no reason at present not to join the ranks of the pessimists.


Raj said...

FYI the Black Hawks are subject to a possible commercial deal for their build in Taiwan. That would be announced by the State Department and not require a notification to Congress.

Raj said...

Also, the RAND report has very naughtily neglected to mention the PAC-3 batteries that the US has stationed in Okinawa.

And the AIM-120 in a 2020 scenario. Yeah, because the US does not have any new models/missiles in the pipeline like the AIM-120D, FMRAAM, JDRADM. Oh, wait a minute....

Is there anyone who doesn't think that the report is a way of justifying/pushing for more high-tech spending against China through scaremongering?

Tommy said...

I see only one silver lining. If China preemtively hits a US airforce base, they may be able to take Taiwan, but they will certainly precipitate a wider war with the US, and probably with Japan as the base is on Japanese territory. Of course, nothing prevents the US from retreating its security umbrella before 2020.

Tommy said...

And as for China's cooperation on Iran, I don't think the US has lost anything. Do you really think that China or Russia have been wanting the US and the EU to succeed in blocking Iran's nuclear capabilities? The more the US and Europe fixate on Iran, the less they fixate on China and Russia. If C and R were really on board, Iran would have given in long ago as tough sanctions would already have been adopted.

My guess is that the Chinese leaders will pout for a while, but no longer than the US election in a few weeks. They will want to get cuddly with the new president, at least at first.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, raj, appreciate it.


Michael Turton said...

don't think the US has lost anything on Iran either, thomas. Easily made up. China has been careful to choose largely symbolic stuff.