Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, August 16, 2002

An Analysis of Taiwan's Actual Military Strength

Taiwan authorities have spent huge amounts of money on building up a contingent of armed forces numbering 370,000 people and equipped with weapons from the United States and other Western countries, although Taiwan's armed forces possess a certain combat effectiveness in terms of the quality of servicemen and part of the weapons, in fact, "once fighting breaks out", Taiwan's military forces cannot sustain very long.


After the publication of Chen Shui-bian's "Taiwan independence" statement "each side of [the Taiwan Straits] is a country", the situation across the Taiwan Straits has once again plunged into tension. Despite the "cool down" immediately made by Taiwan authorities in an attempt to dispel the tense atmosphere in the Island, but how can the evil consequences created single-handedly by Chen Shui-bian be dispelled as he wants to? While sternly criticizing Taiwan authorities' irresponsible remarks uttered without regard to the consequences, the people and public opinion of the Island have begun to estimate the fighting capacity of Taiwan's armed forces.

Some media reports say Taiwan authorities have spent huge amounts of money on building up a contingent of armed forces numbering 370,000 people and equipped with weapons from the United States and other Western countries, although Taiwan's armed forces possess a certain combat effectiveness in terms of the quality of servicemen and part of the weapons, in fact, "once fighting breaks out", Taiwan's military forces cannot sustain very long.

Nearly 100 Targets Vulnerable to Attacks
Taiwan's "defense ministry" once released an internal report, indicating that once a war breaks out between the two sides of the Straits, and the mainland launches rapid, concentrated, accurate and paralytic attacks on the important positions of Taiwan Island, Taiwan's military forces will be deprived of their resistance.

The report declares that the mainland would likely use tactical ground-to-ground missiles and cruise missiles, supplemented by long-range artillery, rockets and various other weapons to launch attacks on nearly one hundred key targets, such as Taiwan's airports, harbors, important highways, bridges and military command centers, missile bases and barracks, and these attacks would be successful within a very short time.

The same report holds that once the mainland launched similar attacks, not only the nearly 100 Taiwan's targets would be subjected to destructive attacks, but Taiwan's counter-attack capability would basically be destroyed.

On the other hand, with a narrow region, Taiwan's major military and civil targets are concentrated mainly in the plains in the western part, especially in the "greater Taipei" and "greater Kaohsiung" areas on the south and north ends; furthermore, isolated on the sea surface, Taiwan Island depends heavily on the outside for its economy and livelihood, if its vital parts were attacked, "Taiwan would suffer serious paralysis".

Militarily, Taiwan's naval force is concentrated mainly in the Tsuoying military port in Kaohsiung, just several dozen missiles could destroy over half of the military strength of Taiwan's navy, and mines laid in several submarine could blockade all of Taiwan's military harbors; most of the major fighters of Taiwan air force are hidden in Hualien's caves, if the cave slideways were hit by several missiles, Taiwan's air force would lose most of its air control; when either of the two south-north power transmission lines on the Island were hit by one missile, the whole of Taiwan Island would be blackened out, several missiles are enough to paralyze the whole island's highway transportation.

Five Defense Lines Are Not Firm
After he came to power, militarily Chen Shui-bian adopted an "offensive strategy" toward the mainland, claiming to fight a "decisive battle outside the region". To this end, Taiwan authorities have unrestrainedly bought foreign weapons and at the same time stepped up the construction of defense lines. Taiwan's senior officers wildly declared that the "five major defense lines" Taiwan established against the mainland would be able to guarantee Taiwan's security, insinuating that with these "five major defense lines" Taiwan's troops would be capable of fighting a protracted war with the mainland. Is that true?

The first defense line of Taiwan's military forces is the "front" of Jinmen and Mazu, where long-range artillery and anti-aircraft missiles are deployed; the second defense line is the navy positioned on the Taiwan Straits, which is currently equipped with more than 40 large surface war vessels, four submarines, and several dozen anti-submarine helicopters; the third defense line consists of two air early warning and intercepting systems, including four early warning planes, more than 400 fighters, over 2,000 ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles, artillery anti-aircraft system; the fourth defense line is located on the western beaches of Taiwan Island, where more than 1,500 tanks, over 1,400 cannons and multi-barrel rocket launchers, over 60 armed helicopters are currently stationed there; the fifth defense line is the "rear reserve base" backed by high mountains in the eastern part, including military bases where armaments and other military materials are stored, such as aircraft cave depots, underwater submarine base, alternate .ports and large cave military warehouses.

Even experts of Taiwan army queried how large a role can the five defense lines play: Jinmen and Mazu are here under the nose of the mainland, how can they resist if a war is broken out? When the defense line of Jinmen and Mazu is broken through, can the second defense line be preserved?

As to the "air protective network", let me leave aside whether Taiwan's 400 fighters can cope with the mainland's fighters and the factors such as that concerning the acute shortage of pilots, the point concerning the narrow region of Taiwan and its few alternate airports vulnerable to destruction alone will place severe tests before Taiwan's air force.

With regard to the tanks and artilleries deployed by Taiwan's military forces on western beaches, the experts point out that the smooth coastline in the western part extends as long as 400-odd km, "will you be able to defend it?" Moreover, in modern landing warfare, it is not relying completely on smooth coastline to seize beaches.

Wartime Ammunition Supply Difficult
Taiwan's military forces are worried not only that the defense line would be broken through, but also that ammunition could hardly be kept up once war broke out. Taiwan's military forces have about 300 ammunition depots scattered in Taiwan Island, Penghu, Jinmen and other areas, of which there are six in Penghu and nine in greater Jinmen. Judged from the distribution of Taiwan's arsenals, they are not only small in number, but are highly concentrated, thus making them easy to be destroyed. Senior Taiwan officers estimated that if war should break out in the Taiwan Straits, over half of Taiwan's arsenals would possibly be destroyed, and that would seriously affect the display of the fighting capacity of Taiwan's military forces.

The ammunitions of Taiwan's armed forces are mainly produced by Taiwan itself and provided by the United States. ��At ordinary time, Taiwan's ammunition factories can only produce ammunitions able to meet the needs of military drill and small amounts of reserves. If war were broken out, particularly if major ammunition factories were hit, it is certain that there would be critical shortage of ammunitions for Taiwan. Senior Taiwan officials are well aware that Taiwan is an isolated island, under war conditions, it is very hard for external munitions to come in, once ammunitions Taiwan itself produced are used up, there will be no missiles and cannons for the airplanes and artilleries of Taiwan's military forces.

Many Army Men Are Afraid of Fighting
Of course, Taiwan has bought many advanced weapons, but how about the men using these weapons? It is disclosed by Taiwan media that 70 percent of Taiwan's students are in favor of "donation for defense", this means if they contribute money, they can get away from being enlisted in the army. Some Taiwan army officers complain that even those who advocate "Taiwan independence" do not want to be soldiers, everyone of them are master hands of "slackers". For instance, Chen Shui-bian had forged a medical record of his own to avoid military service, his son has also escaped joining the army.

Several months ago, a report of Taiwan's military disclosed that the "major issue" of Taiwan's military forces is that soldiers are afraid of going to war. How can an army afraid of fighting cope with war? Due to fear of fighting plus the many problems with the military camp, there is a serious shortage of the source of troops in Taiwan's military forces, very few common people are willing to serve in the army. In order to fill up the army units, the authorities cannot but lower the conscription standard. Statistics show that among the new recruits, many are ex-prisoners and mental disorder patients, and that there are over 1,500 case of army deserters each year. Taiwan media cry out in alarm: Is such an army capable of fighting?

Not long ago, a Taiwanese who once served in the Taiwan army disclosed that in drilling time many soldiers are disinclined to bring with them the necessary equipment, and refuse to go out to drill when the temperature exceeds 30 degrees C. When engaging in bayonet practice, the soldiers look very much like dancing; when taking exams, the examiners directly distribute the answers for everybody to copy, or the squad leaders ask the soldiers to make marks for themselves; computers in the office of the encampment become video games. Some officers and men lamented: Such are the morale and officers and soldiers!��

Cherishing the Illusions about "US Help"
In fact, it is not that Chen Shui-bian does not know the countering ability of Taiwan's troops. Not long ago, when covered by "VOA" correspondent, Chen's advisor Lin Chong-pin indicated that the mainland was most likely adopting the "pinpoint tactics", laying emphasis on attacking Taiwan's military vital positions. Lin was worried that once the mainland uses this tactics, the only thing for Taiwan troops to do is to allow themselves to be captured without putting up resistance.

Probably Lin had told Chen about this. But Chen Seemed like showing no worry and still unscrupulously sent out his provocation to the mainland. Why did he do so? Taiwan media pointed out that Chen dared to "fire" at the mainland mainly because he fancied that the United States would come to his help at crucial moment. But what is the actual situation? Taiwan media said that Chen's train of thought was really "peculiar", while the others think it not enough to protect themselves by insurance, Chen fastens Taiwan to a blade of straw and thinks it very safe this way! This blade of straw naturally refers to the American "friendship" with Taiwan.

Regarding this, Taiwan media specially "warn" Chen Shui-bian that the United States uses Taiwan as a card for containing China, At ordinary time, the United States, of course, would bestow Taiwan petty favors, but whenever America's own interests were affected, the United States would invariably "turn hostile".

In 1949 when the outcome of the civil war between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party was to become clear, the Truman administration suddenly published its White Paper, "US Relations with China", reducing aid to the Kuomintang Party, thus hastening the fall of the Kuomintang regime on the mainland.

When "shelling of Jinmen" in 1958 broke out, although the United States openly indicated its intention to defend Jinmen, Mazu and other islands by force, in reality, however, the United States not only avoided fighting directly with Chinese troops, it even repeatedly forced Chiang Kai-shek to abandon Jinmen and Mazu. Obviously, the United States did not want to shed blood for Taiwan.

In the 1970s, in order to confront the Soviet Union, the United States improved its relations with China, discarded Taiwan authorities, and established diplomatic relations with China, thus landing the Taiwan regime in unprecedented isolation in the international arena.

Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in 1995 caused rapid deterioration of the situation in the Taiwan Straits, after the US government realized the seriousness of the problem, it readjusted its policy toward China, and later announced its new "three no's policy (not supporting Taiwan independence and "two Chinas" or "one China ,one Taiwan", nor supporting Taiwan's participation in the international organizations of sovereign states).

One Taiwan general complained secretly that earlier US President George W. Bush stated his "assistance in defense of Taiwan", but in America's global strategic interests, Taiwan does not hold a principal position, the relations between the Chinese mainland and the United States are much more important. If war across the Taiwan Straits breaks out, is it that the United States will not again abandon Taiwan? Because if the United States gets involved in war, it will lose many more things, who will do such a stupid thing? This general said, "the authorities are absorbed in knitting a fond dream, believing that the United States would unfailingly provide them with a protective umbrella, will that be possible? I wonder what will Chen Shui-bian feel when he hears these remarks.

The article, written by the guest correspondent Zhu Xianlong of the Global Times, is published on the front page of the newspaper on August 15

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