International Herald Tribune
Taiwan: Time not right for reducing China tensions
The Associated Press
Monday, March 16, 2009
TAIPEI, Taiwan: Taiwan will not make concrete moves to reduce military tensions with China before the mainland renounces its threat to use force against the island and removes the missiles it has deployed against it, the defense minister said Monday.
The comments from Chen Chao-min appear to pour cold water on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's call earlier this month to hold talks with Taiwan on military issues in the pursuit of ending hostility between the longtime rivals.
They come on the same day that senior officers reaffirmed their interest in acquiring advanced weapons systems from the United States and the Defense Ministry said in a far-reaching policy document that Taiwanese readiness "cannot be relaxed," despite improving relations between Taipei and Beijing.
Since taking office 10 months ago, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has moved aggressively to reverse his predecessor's pro-independence polices, sanctioning a rapid expansion in trade relations with the mainland, and raising the prospect of a formal peace treaty between the sides.
But speaking to lawmakers in Taipei, Chen alluded to repeated Chinese threats to attack Taiwan if it moves to make its de facto independence permanent and long-standing Taiwanese concerns over the estimated 1,300 missiles Beijing has deployed against the island.
"A mechanism for building mutual confidence in military affairs cannot be established if China does not first give up its threat to use force against Taiwan and remove missiles targeted at us," he said.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 and China continues to claim the democratic island as part of its territory. Four years ago it passed a special law formalizing its threats to attack if Taipei declared independence or put off unification with the mainland indefinitely.
Speaking to the lawmakers, Chen also said Taiwan will continue to develop the Hsiung Feng IIE surface-to-surface cruise missile as a defensive weapon, following the legislature's approval of the project last year.
"Unless the legislature demands us to stop, the Ministry of Defense will not halt (the project)," he said.
Taiwan reportedly test-fired a Hsiung Feng IIE missile with a range of 380 miles (600 kilometers) in October 2004, but its military has never displayed or deployed it.
Chen's comments came on the day the defense ministry unveiled its first "Quadrennial Defense Review," detailing Taiwan's expected military posture over the coming four years.
While acknowledging that tensions across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait have receded since Ma took office, it noted Beijing was still threatening the island.
"Vigilance for military readiness, therefore, cannot be relaxed," it said.
Speaking at a press conference to mark the defense review's publication, senior Taiwanese officers reaffirmed Taiwan's commitment to continuing to acquire cutting-edge weapons systems from the United States, including F-16 C/D fighter jets and diesel submarines.
Taiwan first approached the U.S. on the F-16 issue during the administration of former President Chen Shui-bian, but was repeatedly rebuffed. China strongly objects to American arms sales to Taiwan, and would view a new F-16 delivery to the island as a threat to its own growing military prowess in the Taiwan Strait.
Earlier this month the U.S. agreed to make Orion PC-3 submarine-hunting aircraft available to Taiwan and is believed to be close to signing off on a sales contract for Black Hawk utility helicopters.
But any serious consideration on the F-16s is believed to be months away — at the very least.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Ok, enough detours from the real news, this is the stuff that matters.
The debate regarding F-16 sales to ROC is heating up again; back in March 10th, Reuters reported (Here) that the U.S. government has declined ROC's request of a $4.9 billion deal for 66 F-16s (D and E models). Predictably, On March 16 (Here), ROC renews its now 12 years old campaign for those F-16s. At the same time, the idea of ROC should build a strong homeland defense capability with less emphasis on air and sea power suggested by William Murray of US Naval War College's is gaining traction (Here). Those 4.9 Billion can be better utilized else where.
Posted by Coatepeque at 9:33 AM