Monday, May 16, 2011

China vs. Taiwan Update

Since the Nationalist forces pulled out of mainland China in 1949 the Communist and Nationalist China's have been at each others throats. In the last 15 years this not so friendly rivalry has been intensifying, I have covered some of China's recent actions as seen in "Chengdu J-20: Carrier Killer?", "DF-21D: Is It a Threat?" and "Chinese Naval Aviation Update" with all the coverage going to the "People's" (read communist) Republic of China, I have yet to cover any of the Republic of China's (Taiwan) recent moves.
     In the past few months Taiwan's president Ma Ying-Jeou has urged the U.S. to allow Taiwan to purchase more F-16C/D Block 50/52 Falcons and to allow upgrades to Taiwan's existing F-16A/B Block 20 fleet. President Ma says that these purchases would allow Taiwan to negotiate with the PRC on an equal footing. One of the reasons used to explain the delay in this purchase is that the PRC would retaliate economically if we did so (they hold 1+ trillion dollars of our dept courtesy of the politicians in D.C.). At the same time the Taiwanese have built a homegrown fighter that looks like a cross between an F/A-18 and an F-16.
     Moving on to the world of air defense, the Taiwanese held a drill back in January to test the effectiveness of their I-Hawk surface-to-air missile systems but, 5 out of 19 missiles missed (roughly 25%). Because so many missiles were off target there is speculation that the test will score Taiwan some new American-made surface-to-air missiles, like more MIM-104 Patriot batteries, maybe some MEADS units if and/or when the U.S. reenters the program.
     China in the last 10 years has been rapidly expanding it's navy from a coastal defense fleet to a true blue water navy capable of competing with the U.S. and other countries on the high seas. To answer this threat Taiwan recently fielded the Hsiung Feng III or Brave Wind anti-ship missile on it's warships and, possibly on mobile land launchers as well. The Hsiung Feng III is reported to have a range of 300km, enough to reach mainland China and, a warhead which is rumored to be in the 225kg range. On top of this Taiwan has said that it plans to build a "stealth" warship that will be armed with 8 Hsiung Feng III missiles and 8 Hsiung Feng II missiles. On top of this Taiwan in the last 6 months has added at least 2 frigates and 10 new missile boats to it's naval forces.
     Last, but by no means least is the news that Taiwan has developed an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Beijing. Taiwan has not said if the IRBM is nuclear capable though it probably is not nuclear capable and more likely is meant as a deterrent to show the PRC that Taiwan can hurt them. 
     With the ROC (Taiwan) and the PRC (mainland China) both rapidly building up their military's it is almost inevitable that in the next 20 years there will be a clash between the two nations. When this war begins it is almost certain the U.S. will pulled into the war and will at some point lose an aircraft carrier and multiple surface ships. In the present situation there is no real solution that will appease both sides, in this situation there is only one path to take if you wish to remain free, deterrence. Taiwan has up to this point denied having any nuclear, biological or chemical weapons while the PRC has all of these weapons in large quantities and the necessary delivery systems for these weapons. Taiwan must either engage in a massive build up of it's conventional forces or begin a clandestine nuclear weapons program similar to the early Israeli nuclear program. Whatever the ROC does it must do quickly because the U.S. is moving farther and farther away from Taiwan and more and more towards the PRC and will soon not support Taiwan as we have in previous decades.   

Photo Credit: CIA

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