The minsitry quotes these figures in Ma’s defense to show that he pays considerable attention to national defense. In this regard, the US congressional report Taiwan: Major US Arms Sales Since 1990 records that the US Congress was notified of the sale of six military items amounting to US$6.463 billion on Oct. 3, 2008; five items amounting to US$6.392 billion on Jan. 29, 2010; and three items totaling US$5.852 billion on Sept. 21 last year. While these three amounts add up to US$18.707 billion, most items on the list were planned for during the preceding eight-year administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
However, anyone who has worked as a military officer in the field of investment planning for military development at the ministry, and any academic familiar with this kind of operational procedure, knows that major military purchases must be included in the 10-year military development plan and the five-year plan for renovating military strength, and then be added to the list of new developments for which the order of priority is set out through an annual review by the armed forces. Unless an informal emergency-response armaments procedure is invoked, the process must adhere to the normal regulations. The regular procedure involves submitting documents covering operational requirements, systems analysis and an investment outline, which takes at least 12 months to complete. The next step is for Taiwan’s government to submit a formal letter of request to the US. When the letter has been approved, the purchase plan still has to be submitted to Taiwan’s legislature for the budget to be approved. These steps take at least another six months.
So when considering Ma’s “achievement” in obtaining US$18.3 billion worth of arms from the US during the four years of his first term in office, one must make a detailed distinction to divide the items into three categories: items that were planned by the previous administration and procured by the present one, items that were planned and procured by the present administration, and those that have been planned under the present administration but have yet to be procured. If the items are not categorized in this way, it amounts to trying to make the present administration look good by distorting and inflating the figures.
Recent reports indicate that the submarine division of the South China Fleet of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has started conducting live drills similar to those carried out by the US Navy. These drills involve dividing the submarines into opposing “blue” and “red” groups and carrying out attack and defense flexible-response, live-fire exercises. The Chinese navy’s rapid progress in this respect is quite astonishing. Comparing China’s military drills with Taiwan’s Han Kuang maneuvers makes it quite obvious who has the upper hand. One can only conclude that Taiwan’s national defense is indeed getting weaker as time goes on.
Wang Jyh-perng is a reserve navy captain and an associate research fellow with the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.
Translated by Julian Clegg