Feeling Beleaguered, Taiwan Seeks to Beef-up Military Presence

(c) K.B. Sherman, 2003

With Washington calling for Taiwan to beef-up its missile defense and with other powers ever more aggressive in Taiwan’s territorial waters, Taipei is talking tougher about defense.

Aside from the 1,000 gorilla across the Straits from Taiwan, the ROC is feeling ever more pressure to defend its territory. Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien recently called upon the ROC Coast Guard to vigorously protect its territorial waters from other nations’ ships, including those from the PRC and Japan. “Taiwan is prepared to do whatever it takes to defend Taiwanese fishing boats, even sending coast guard vessels to protect them,” he said recently, according to The Taiwan Times. This news follows Japan’s expelling of Taiwanese boats from what Tokyo calls its economic waters in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea. Taiwan maintains that its exclusive economic zone extends 200 nautical miles from shore. Recently, the Japan Coast Guard chased from its claimed waters Taiwanese fishing boats, firing upon them with water and paint cannons. Taiwanese fishermen have, in response, threatened to resort to violent means to fight Japan's Coast Guard.

In related news, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defense warned Taipei that it must develop its own missile defense capability to forestall an invasion by Beijing and from aggression by other neighbors. Peter Brookes said that Taiwan needs both a defensive and offensive force in the Taiwan Strait. Brookes, director of the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, suggested that Taiwan improve its air and naval forces so that they can sink Chinese ships approaching Taiwan, as well as mount pre-emptive strikes on the PRC. He recommends F-16 airplanes and Cobra helicopter gunships equipped with anti-ship weapons. Brookes noted that Taiwan's air force lacks an anti-surface ship mission. Ex-Kidd-class destroyers and diesel submarines that President Bush wants to sell to Taipei would have additional deterrent anti-ship and anti-aircraft capabilities. "I think Taiwan has to move forward on an autonomous missile defense," Brookes said. "Weakness invites provocation."

The Heritage Foundation is recommending that Taiwan Procure F-16s to Counter Growing Threats in its Neighborhood