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China Could Hurt But Not Hold Taiwan

China Could Hurt But Not Hold Taiwan

Statement of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command. Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Fiscal Year 2002 Posture Statement, Washington D.C., March 27, 2001. Source: Washington File (EUR119), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., April 2, 2001.

While Beijing could cause "significant damage" to Taipei in a military confrontation, its armed forces would not be able to hold Taiwan, according to Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Command.

In testimony March 27 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blair said that despite efforts by Beijing to upgrade its military forces, changes in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Taiwan's military forces "have not significantly altered the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait."

Taiwan's military maintains "a qualitative edge" over the PLA, Blair told the senators, so the PLA "still lacks the capability to invade and hold Taiwan."

On the other hand, Blair said, China maintains "a quantitative edge in all branches of service, but does not have adequate power projection to quickly overcome Taiwan's more modern air force and inherent geographical advantages, which favor defense."

The communist regime's military forces do have the ability "to inflict significant damage to Taiwan," he cautioned.

Furthermore, the Beijing regime "continues to increase its modern combat aircraft inventory and improve air defenses, particularly across the Taiwan Strait," Blair said.

Testifying four days before a Chinese fighter aircraft and an American plane collided over the South China Sea, Blair said the U.S. military was seeking to emphasize "areas of mutual interest and encourage Chinese participation in regional security cooperation while maintaining that diplomacy, not armed force, should settle disputes."

Blair cited the participation of PLA forces in a search-and-rescue exercise in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and the presence of four Chinese officials -- two from the PLA and two from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu as examples of efforts to engage China in regional security cooperation.

However, Blair noted, the United States has "invited the PLA to participate in more multinational conferences on topics involving regional security cooperation than it has chosen to attend."

Following is an excerpt from Admiral Blair's March 27 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

(begin excerpt)

Statement of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Fiscal Year 2002 Posture Statement, Washington D.C., March 27, 2001.

China

During the past year, military developments in China have been mixed. A White Paper issued in February 2000 emphasized China's commitment to peacefully resolving its differences with Taiwan, but also specified conditions that could trigger the use of force against Taiwan. Chinese military spending increased, and Beijing continued to acquire advanced weapon systems from Russia.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing and making organizational changes in all branches of service to strengthen homeland defense, expand regional influence and support sovereignty claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China continues to increase its modern combat aircraft inventory and improve air defenses, particularly across the Taiwan Strait.

The PLA navy conducted sea trials for eventually fielding additional surface ships and submarines, continued testing of anti-ship missiles, and received its second modern Russian guided missile destroyer. PLA ground forces continued downsizing to reduce force structure and increase mobility.

The PLA missile force continued testing and fielding of newer inter-continental and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and is building additional SRBM launch sites within range of Taiwan.

China's exercise program, while extensive, was not explicitly threatening to Taiwan.

Over the past year, we have reinitiated military relations with China on a realistic foundation. We have fashioned policies that offer China areas for productive relations, while ensuring that we can deal with a more confrontational posture, should it be necessary. We emphasize areas of mutual interest and encourage Chinese participation in regional security cooperation while maintaining that diplomacy, not armed force, should settle disputes.

We have exchanged visits between senior PLA delegations and U.S. counterparts, and ships have conducted reciprocal port visits. PLA forces participated in a search-and-rescue exercise in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, and four Chinese officials (two from the PLA and two from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) attended the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. We have invited the PLA to participate in more multinational conferences on topics involving regional security cooperation than it has chosen to attend. We carefully vet our engagement in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Taiwan armed forces also continue their restructuring and force modernization. A civilian Defense Minister now oversees the armed forces. The Taiwan military relies heavily on the United States to modernize its forces. Through last year's arms sales, Taiwan's armed forces increased surveillance capabilities and modernized air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface weapons. Taiwan is looking forward in its modernization plans by improving a number of bases and infrastructure to support acquisition of future weapons.

As Taiwan modernizes its armed forces to ensure a sufficient defense, training, inter-service interoperability and logistics support become even more important. The Taiwan armed forces will have to put resources and attention into these areas to retain the qualitative edge.

Based upon our assessments, I conclude that the changes in PLA and Taiwan military forces have not significantly altered the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan's military maintains a qualitative edge over the PLA, and the PLA still lacks the capability to invade and hold Taiwan.

China maintains a quantitative edge in all branches of service, but does not have adequate power projection to quickly overcome Taiwan's more modern air force and inherent geographical advantages, which favor defense. Beijing's military forces, however, have the ability to inflict significant damage to Taiwan.

We expect China to accelerate military modernization, but pressing economic and social issues will temper this effort.

Military modernization will not decisively alter the military situation across the Strait in the next several years. The continuing buildup of Chinese Ballistic missiles, combined with increases in accuracy, will increasingly pressure the sufficiency of Taiwan's defenses. The U.S. - China - Taiwan relationship will continue to be a critical factor in our regional engagement strategy.

(end text)

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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