Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Defense Review Round Up

The military's quadrennial defense review came out this week, to much commentary. The Taipei Times gave the outline:
The military has also announced plans to complete a transition to an all-volunteer force by December 2014.

The review said the Military Police Command would be dissolved, with some of its personnel transferred to the army.

Asked at the legislature whether the abolition of the military police would have a negative impact on the defense of the capital and the president, Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) said the army would form a command in Taipei to replace the military police and ensure continuity.


Meanwhile, the military said yesterday that programs for the development of short and medium-range missiles, launched under the former Democratic Progressive Party government, were still in place.


The review said the military was developing a doctrine for asymmetric warfare in light of the military balance in the Taiwan Strait having tipped in China’s favor.

"Developing advanced information warfare capabilities and weapons such as the Hsiung Feng II-E are military strategies for asymmetric warfare,” Deputy Chief of General Staff for Operations and Planning Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told the press conference.

Also yesterday, Vice Admiral Li Hsi-ming (李喜明) said Taiwan should not make concrete moves to reduce military tensions with China before there is a domestic consensus to do so and political trust develops between the sides.


In parallel with Li’s comments, other senior officers said the country was committed to continuing to acquire cutting-edge weapons systems from the US, including F-16C/D fighter jets and diesel submarines.

More advanced jet fighters like the F-35 are also on the radar screen, the officers said, but a decision has not been made on filing a formal request for them.

Earlier this month the US agreed to make Orion PC-3 marine patrol aircraft available to Taiwan and is believed to be close to approving a sales contract for Apache helicopters. But any serious consideration on the F-16s is believed to be months away — at the very least.
The US will probably never sell Taiwan F-35s. Kyodo's Max Hirsch had some discussion of the fighter and the rationale for it.
Defense Minister Chen Chao-min told lawmakers Monday cross-strait military confidence-building measures would be impossible without China's first renouncing the use of force against Taiwan and removing its missiles deployed against the island.

Amid the lingering threat of attack, fighters like the F-35 would be critical to air defense, said former National Security Council official York Chen.

Taking off and landing vertically or on short runways -- a key capability of one version of the F-35 -- would be critical in a first-wave attack by China, as runways would likely be shredded by Chinese ordnance, said Chen, who now serves as CEO of the Institute for Taiwan Defense and Strategic Studies, a Taipei-based think thank.

F-16s, on the other hand, require relatively long runways for successful takeoffs and landings, Chen said.

''Taiwan has been talking with various parties about getting the technology for developing its own aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities,'' he said, adding the island ''has a long time to wait before the possibility of procuring the F-35 even emerges.''

Taiwan had expressed an interest in F-35s as early as 2006, but Washington was cold to the notion of selling them to Taipei, according to Jane's Defence Weekly. Washington balks at releasing the F-22 to any ally, citing the fighter's advanced technology.
The report was the subject of a WSJ article by Ting-i Tsai, which discussed some of the strategic thinking and military issues. A major issue running through the discussions of Taiwan's options is the growing realization in Washington and Taipei that Beijing has given Taiwan nothing (why is this a surprise to anyone?) and that the time has come to take a harder line:

The quadrennial military review, issued Monday, runs counter to softer, more China-friendly draft versions that circulated in Taiwan over the past few months. Some officials said the harder line is a response to criticism in Taipei and Washington that the current administration in Taiwan had been making too many concessions to China without having received much in return.

"The report is tougher than I expected," said Alexander Huang, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, who was involved in earlier versions of the paper.

Ma Ying-jeou had called for the suicidal strategy of fighting on land against China, instead of fighting to control the air and sea around the island:
Perhaps the most notable sign of improving ties was a government defense paper endorsed by Mr. Ma that called for democratically governed Taiwan, a hub of the global high-tech industry, to give up its longtime strategy of preventing a Chinese attack by maintaining air and sea superiority. Instead, Taiwan would concentrate its defenses against a ground assault, according to the paper.
This is probably a reference to a bastardized version of William Murray's "porcupine strategy" under which Taiwan gives up the air war (because its runways will probably be reduced to rubble in the opening phases) and concentrates on becoming too tough a nut to crack. As the WSJ piece notes:

"Critics from the military and academia forced President Ma to emphasize that the navy and air force are both important," said a senior official from the Ministry of National Defense.

A presidential spokesman said: "President Ma fully respects professionals on this issue."

Recall that in the old days Chiang Kai-shek maintained a massive army, ostensibly to invade China, but also because military service was useful way to propagandize the island's males. Hence the Army for many years was the service with the most clout. Clearly the other services were unhappy with the Ma strategy....

Steve Yates, longtime Taiwan supporter and sometime official in the Bush Administration, spoke in Taipei yesterday and noted of the US commitment:
At the time of the TRA’s composition, no one foresaw the current rapprochement between Taiwan and China and, therefore, the legislation did not state what the US would deem as acceptable if any agreements were to be signed by Taipei and Beijing, he said.

Yates, a longtime supporter of Taiwan, also panned Washington for refusing to acknowledge the reality that Taiwan was a democratic country by ignoring the fact that conflict in the Taiwan Strait was not merely limited to Beijing and Taiwan, but a grave concern to the whole region.

One of three major tenets of the TRA is the US commitment to avert possible Chinese aggression against Taiwan. But instead of taking active measures on the rapid modernization of the People’s Liberation Army in recent years, many people in Washington are telling Taipei “to stay quiet” and not to stir up possible conflict.

Calling attention to the growing cross-strait imbalance that has given China the upper hand, Yates encouraged Taiwanese to use their power to force the government to behave in line with the majority of public opinion.

Taiwan, he said, must reach an internal consensus on what it wants before any country, including the US, can help, he said.
Note that Yates does not ask for a consensus on national status, merely on what the island wants. On that, actually, there is already wide agreement that could be used as the basis for a national politico-military strategy: no annexation to China. In his own way Yates is sending the same message that J. Michael Cole was the other day in the Taipei Times -- it is time for Taiwanese to stop standing idly by as their destiny is handed off to unelected KMT heavyweights and to stop petitioning the Emperor US authorities who have other agendas with China, and in the Middle East, that they feel are more urgent. The world will listen, if only the Taiwanese shout....

Meanwhile, where are our F-16s? That's an $11 billion stimulus check to US workers, and 66 aircraft US flyers won't have to be found for when the balloon goes up here.

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Dixteel said...

The report actually sounds like Ma government has taken a cold shower and cool off from China Fever. But I wonder if it's just the military holding a completely different view with the government...after all, with Ma's policy of surrendering, the military should be dissolved already, and military certainly doesn't want that to happen.

Vice Admiral Li said the right thing. It's nice to know that there are those in the military holding such opinion, if he meant what he said. Instead of like Ma, leaning toward China and acting like a naive girl whether Taiwanese want to or not.

For quite a while I was thinking it would be very nice if Taiwan can acquire some F-35, especial the STVL version. It will make Taiwan much less vulnerable after the enemy's missile bombarment. But I also know for sure the US won't sell that thing. But hey, it doesn't hurt for Taiwan to ask for them.

And indeed at the same time Taiwan is trying to acquire F-16 C/D, I think it should also really look into experimenting with STVL aircrafts...it's difficult technology to develop for sure but it's not a new technology. If Taiwan can actually manufacture it's own STVL aircrafts the strategic versatility it offers would be enormous. Taiwan can even have it's own small aircraft carriers if required. And more sections of the highways can be desinated as emergency combat runways.

But another thing I think Taiwan should do is just increase its military budget...right now it's 3% of GTP but I think it should be at 4%...Now some might say "think of the children," we can't spend on military when the economy is down. Ahha...but that's the thing, maybe we should really spend a bit more on the military when the economy is down, to stimulate the economy and create jobs. But of course, it has to be done in the right way otherwise all the budget would just be eaten up by bureaucrats...just my opinion.

Tommy said...

"A major issue running through the discussions of Taiwan's options is the growing realization in Washington and Taipei that Beijing has given Taiwan nothing."

WRONG! Beijing has "given" Taiwan pandas!!! :-D

Unknown said...

F-22 or F-35 sales are probably out of the question, but how about this?


Unknown said...

US won't sell F-15 to Taiwan.