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Taiwan's military advantages vs. China waning: U.S. report

2018/08/17 14:45:08

Washington, Aug. 16 (CNA) Taiwan's military advantages are on the wane as Beijing continues to modernize its armed forces and reinforce preparations for a possible conflict in the Taiwan Strait, the United States said in a report on China's military power.

The Department of Defense's 2018 China Military Power Report released Thursday said Taiwan has historically enjoyed military advantages in a potential cross-strait conflict, such as technological superiority and the inherent geographic advantages of island defense.

But "China's multi-decade military modernization effort has eroded or negated many of these," the report contended.

Though Taiwan is taking steps to compensate for the growing disparities, they only partially address Taiwan's declining defensive advantages at a time when China's official defense budget has grown to roughly 15 times that of Taiwan.

Much of that budget is focused on developing the capability to unify Taiwan with the mainland by force, the report said, noting that China has never repudiated the use of military force despite its advocacy of "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

"China's overall strategy continues to incorporate elements of both persuasion and coercion to hinder the development of political attitudes in Taiwan favoring independence," the report said.

China has stressed that Taiwan must accept the "1992 consensus," an ambiguous term used by Taiwan's previous administration and Chinese leaders as a basis for engagement, according to the report.

Taiwan's incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party has refused to recognize the "consensus," a tacit understanding there is "one China," with each side having its own interpretation of what "one China" means.

Against that backdrop, the "major PLA reorganization of combat units in 2017 likely affected units responsible for a Taiwan contingency," the report said.

"Concurrently, the PLA continued to develop and deploy increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan, signal Chinese resolve, and gradually improve capabilities for an invasion."

These improvements pose major challenges to Taiwan's security, the report said, arguing that "China could pursue a measured approach by signaling its readiness to use force or conduct punitive actions against Taiwan."

"The PLA could also conduct a more comprehensive and more methodical campaign designed to force Taiwan to capitulate to unification, or unification dialogue, under PRC terms."

China will also try to deter potential U.S. intervention "in any Taiwan contingency campaign," the report said. "Failing that, China would attempt to delay intervention and seek victory in an asymmetric, limited war of short duration.

"In the event of a protracted conflict, China might fight to a standstill and pursue a political settlement," the report speculated.

The China Military Power Report, a requirement of the U.S.'s National Defense Authorization Act, describes the current status and development of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces, and also provides analysis of China's strategy in the Taiwan Strait.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Elizabeth Hsu)
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