US report warns of cross-strait military imbalance

By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Mainland China’s ongoing military modernization has continued to shift Taiwan-China military balance in Beijing’s favor despite warming cross-strait relations, a U.S. congressional commission report said Thursday. Despite the recent cross-strait rapprochement, ��the core sovereignty and security issues between Taiwan and China remain unresolved,�� according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s (USCC) annual report to the U.S. Congress. ��China’s military modernization has significantly increased Beijing’s ability to conduct military operations against Taiwan and to deter, delay and deny any U.S. intervention in a cross-strait conflict,�� it added. In response, Taiwan’s recent focus on developing ��innovative and asymmetric military capabilities�� and continued acquisition of major weapon systems from the U.S. have improved its military capabilities.

However, the cross-strait balance of power has shifted decidedly in China’s favor, it noted. According to the report, China currently has approximately 2,100 combat aircraft and 280 naval ships available for a Taiwan conflict. About 600 of China’s combat aircraft and 90 of China’s submarines and surface ships are modern.

In contrast, Taiwan has approximately 410 combat aircraft and 90 naval combatants. Fewer than 330 of Taiwan’s combat aircraft and about 25 of Taiwan’s surface ships are modern as it has not acquired a modern combat aircraft or naval combatant since the mid-2000s, it added. The report further pointed out that the U.S. has approved Taiwan’s request to purchase diesel-electric submarines via the foreign military sales process in 2001. However, the sale has stalled for a number of reasons on both sides.

��These include partisan political gridlock in Taiwan’s Legislature, delays in Taiwan’s commitment of funds, and disagreements between Washington and Taipei over costs.�� ��Furthermore, the United States has not built a diesel-electric submarine since the 1950s or operated one since 1990.�� Despite the fact that Taipei and Washington continue to engage in a ��robust but low-profile security partnership, including increased military-to-military contact,�� the U.S. government has not authorized a major arms sale to Taiwan since 2011.

The report, therefore, recommended that Congress push for arms deals that would supply Taiwan with weapons necessary for its self-defense. It also suggested that the U.S. allow and encourage official travel to Taiwan by more high-ranking military personnel and urged Cabinet-level officials to make more frequent visits to Taiwan to promote bilateral exchanges.

Taiwan Asks for US Support in Submarine Program Asked to comment, military spokesman Luo Shao-ho yesterday said the Ministry of National Defense (MND) thanks the U.S. government for providing self-defense weapons systems to Taiwan over the past decades based on the Taiwan Relations Act. Regarding the acquisition of submarines, Luo noted that Taiwan would prefer to procure new U.S. submarines but due to the stalling of the procurement process, Taiwan will pursue both foreign procurement and domestic building plans simultaneously.

��We welcome the U.S. to collaborate with us to advance our indigenous submarine-building program,�� he said.

The USCC was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor, investigate and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.