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US-Taiwan military moves lead nowhere
By Gong Kaiguo (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-11 14:53

In their attempts to look after purely their own interests, the United States and Taiwan leaders have just taken all sorts of measures to strengthen Taiwan's military capability.

The two sides are seeking mutual benefits from their closer ties.

The United States is aiming to maintain a dominant and strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region, while Taiwan is pushing its attempts at independence by relying on foreign forces.

On June 19, Taiwan's "Han Kuang 20" Military Drill entered its crucial computer simulation stage. With the assistance of a 60-member panel from the Pentagon, the computer-simulated military exercise emulated an imaginary military conflict across the Taiwan Straits in 2006. Instead of being commanded by the island's "Headquarters of General Staff," the military exercise was essentially directed by the US military group, which was headed by a colonel.

The 60-member panel not only mastered the whole process of the computer simulation drill, but also went deep into Taiwan's various military headquarters and theatres of war to gain full knowledge of the transfer of the island's military forces as well as their logistics conditions in this drill.

It also offered Taiwan relevant military exercise software and logistics armament parameters used by the US Pacific Fleet.

At the same time, the panel brought relevant data from the "Han Kuang Drill" back to the United States for reference, so that the Pentagon can take the optimal occasion and way for military intervention in any potential military strike the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China launches against Taiwan.

Concurring with the computer simulation of the "Han Kuang" military exercise, the United States and Japan also jointly held regular military manoeuvres near the Ryukyu Islands, not far from Taiwan Island. The joint US-Japan military drill was aimed at dealing with the imaginary emergency of the Chinese mainland attacking Taiwan.

In this exercise, the United States can simultaneously command the Japan-based US forces as well as the Japan and Taiwan armies.

The United States has also recently invited the island's army to join military manoeuvres carried out by its aircraft carriers in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

As well as sending some military personnel to the United States for study and training, Taiwan also sent some intermediate-level military officials to join the US-held military exercises.

The United States has also been excessively concerned about the island's building its own military forces. It has always tried to prompt Taiwan to build and upgrade its own weaponry so the island can prevent any possible coup d'etat and master a self-defence capability against the mainland's rising military "threat."

On May 1, the Pentagon and the US Pacific Command co-organized a six-member delegation to Taiwan to mediate in the island's social chaos following "president" Chen Shui-bian's re-election on March 20. After its arrival, the delegation remained in intimate contact with the Taiwan authorities and the island's high-level military circles to help Chen stabilize and consolidate his fragile regime.

In a hearing held by the US Congress about Taiwan Relations Act in April this year, Peter Rodman, US assistant secretary of defence, made several excuses for US involvement in any military conflict between Taiwan and the mainland.

Using claims that a military conflict between the mainland and Taiwan is unavoidable in the future, possibly in 2006, the United States has recently called off related bans on US-Taiwan military co-operation. The Bush administration has just suspended a prohibition on Taiwan's military officials entering the Pentagon in uniform.

Despite its reaffirmation of its promise to back the one-China principle on many occasions, the US' behaviour has sent a strong signal that there exists the possibility for Washington's intervention in any military conflict across the Taiwan Straits with the excuse that the island's safety is being protected.

Currently, 90 per cent of Taiwan's military equipment comes from the United States. The United States and Taiwan are negotiating a colossal sum of arms sales to the island, which include eight diesel-engine submarines, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft and six Patriot Advanced (PAC) anti-missile systems. The strong opposition within the island itself and from the mainland has seemingly not stopped the Taiwan authorities' and some US politicians' resolve to strike this huge weapons deal.

US military officials have said to Taiwan officials on many occasions that the current environment for US arms sales to the island is more relaxed than ever.

Exaggerating the mainland's military threat to Taiwan is often an effective means for Washington to make the island's authorities feel it necessary to build up a self-defence capability.

On May 28, the Pentagon published an assessment report on the power of the PLA. The document said the PLA is making active preparations to launch an attack on Taiwan.

After pointing out the weakness of Taiwan's military, the report strongly proposes the island should strengthen its "defensive" capability.

The report claims that Taiwan has failed to keep pace with the mainland's accelerated development of a co-ordinated military fighting ability, and that the mainland's continuous modernization of its missile depot will make the island's previous defensive strategy, which focuses on anti-landing, fall apart.

The United States has many times simulated a cross-Straits conflict to prepare for its involvement in a possible military crisis in the region.

It has been reported that the Honolulu-based US Pacific Command honours a confidential plan on Taiwan's self-defence against a potential military attack from the mainland.

The document details the military deployment of the United States, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan near the Taiwan Straits, several possibilities of the cross-Straits conflict, and possible US reaction.

The continuous advancement of US-Taiwan military ties has seemingly increased the island's confidence in confronting the mainland, but the independence-chasing Taiwanese authorities will finally find they will simply become the United States' gunpowder.

(The author is a Nanjing-based scholar. This article was originally published in the Cross Straits Relations magazine.)

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