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Analysis: Taiwan defense plans -- Part 1

By ANDREI CHANG

HONG KONG, July 29 (UPI) -- In light of China's increasing military buildup, Taiwan's strategic security can be guaranteed only under three conditions.

These are: first, a solid and appropriate national defense buildup; second, a government in Taipei that does not indulge in stimulating or appeasing the Chinese communist regime on the Mainland; and third, an effective strategic alliance with the United States and Japan that provides unwavering political and military support from the two countries.

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All three conditions are of equal and vital importance for Taiwan's security.

In the first four years of new Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's leadership, some progress may be made in easing the cross-straits predicament, primarily concerning procedures such as the three links -- postal, trade and transport services -- and personnel visits. However, no breakthrough can be expected on the security issue. Ma was elected and took office this year.

At the heart of the problem is the two sides' different understanding of the so-called one-China consensus. As long as the People's Republic of China refuses to recognize the existence of Taiwan -- that is to say, the Republic of China -- as a separate political entity, the chronic crisis in cross-strait relations is unlikely to change.

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The "two-state theory" raised by former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui -- that China and Taiwan have separate and equal status -- might be raised once again and impact the stability of cross-strait relations.

In fact, the mainland policy of the now-ruling Kuomintang -- KMT -- of Ma in Taiwan has been called a "Lee Teng-hui route without Lee Teng-hui."

How will the Chinese government take on Ma's "no reunification, no independence, no arms race" policy? As a Chinese strategist stated in a televised debate with the author, China is very concerned about the Taiwanese KMT's position of "stalling" and "maintaining the status quo" on the issue of reunification. Delaying tactics are not substantially different from Taiwan independence, he claimed.

China will not tolerate the long-term existence of "two Chinas." Without a legitimate excuse for its military expansion -- such as "preventing Taiwan's independence" -- China will shift its position to "containing an independent Taiwan."

In other words, China's pace of military expansion will not slow down because of Ma's rule in Taipei.

Any doubt about this surely will be dispelled when China releases its new military budget figures during the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March 2009 in Beijing.

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As a precondition for signing any peace agreement with China, Ma has demanded that China withdraw its missiles directed at Taiwan. Militarily, as a matter of fact, withdrawing the ground-to-ground short-range missiles currently deployed in Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces on the Mainland would have little practical value in easing the military threat to Taiwan; it would take only 24 to 72 hours to redeploy these missiles. Unless China destroys all its short-range ballistic missiles with a range less than 360 miles, Taiwan's basic security will not be guaranteed.

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(Part 2: Taiwan's best air and naval procurement options)

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(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)

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