MND: China could invade Taiwan if ‘urgent situation’ arose
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-09-01 06:34 PM
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has released its 103 Report on the Communist Military as well as a report on the nation’s Five-year Renovation and Policy Program, two studies which warn that the imbalance between the military capabilities on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait continues to widen. The report concludes that the PLA now has the personnel and equipment to occupy Taiwan’s offshore islands, but its lack of formal amphibious forces means that it does not yet have sufficient combat power to successfully pull off an invasion of the main island of Taiwan. At the same time, the studies conclude that if a critical situation or an urgent need arose, China could very well still attempt to carry out an amphibious landing in a direct attack on Taiwan.

As for what would constitute an "urgent situation," MND officials point to three possibilities. The first would be a change in the status quo of Taiwan, i.e., if Taiwan were unilaterally to declare independence. The second possibility would be serious internal political turmoil on the island. And the third possibility would be following a major change in his leadership of the CPC. The MND notes that its goal is to resist such an invasion "for at least a month," although the actual ability of Taiwan’s military forces to hold out would depend on levels of morale among the troops, reaction to an invasion from the international community and other factors.

China’s military budget broke the RMB800 billion mark for the first time this year. The figure is up 12.2% over last year and about four times what it was about a decade ago. At the same time, Taiwan has instituted the "Yung-ku Program" which is expected to cut the ROC’s military forces by about a tenth over the next few years. Thus Taiwan’s military is facing cutbacks even as China steadily builds up its armaments and forces.

Since 1989, China has expanded its budget for the military by double digits every year except 2010 when the country experienced a financial crisis. During that year the increase was a slightly smaller 7.75%. After Xi Jinping took office in 2014 the budget hike was stretched to 12.2%, higher than it was in the previous two years.

China’s publicly announced defense budget, excluding defense research, revenue from arms sales, procurement spending and defense industry foreign revenue as well as budgeting for the 680,000-strong Armed Police Force is well above RMB800 billion for the current year.

China now outspends Taiwan on defense appropriations by a ratio of about 13 to 1. This overwhelming disparity means that Taiwan cannot hope to match every possible move the PLA might make and must instead rely on innovative, asymmetric strategies that will cause a maximum of damage and serve as a distraction or deterrent to military action.

MND officials note that China’s current military capabilities and Taiwan’s level of deterrence would suggest a blockade paired with softening-up by missile barrages rather than a direct attack on the island. China’s amphibious troops and equipment have been bolstered significantly in recent years, particularly with delivery vehicles like its large Bison hovercraft sold by the Ukraine. The Bison can an carry nearly a battalion of troops and could reach Taiwan's western beaches from the southeast coast within about two hours, coming ashore in areas offering fish ponds, lagoons or other large bodies of water.

In May’s computerized Han Kuang war exercises the Red Army’s Bison hovercraft caught the defending Blue Army completely off guard. China reportedly has only four Bisons in its inventory, but if that number is increased in the future it will constitute a serious threat to Taiwan’s defensive capabilities.

The troop renovation plan released by the MND points out that Taiwan’s Navy and Air Force no longer maintain their own dedicated security forces, relying instead on support from local ground forces for their security needs. In the future some of these security duties in less critical areas could be handed over to militia units.

The Marines will be retained as an independent amphibious unit despite earlier speculation that they might be disbanded. The number of troops in the Marines may be reduced considerably, however.

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