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TAIWAN URGED TO COPE WITH RISING MAINLAND NAVAL THREAT

2004-05-09 20:26:38

    Taipei, May 9 (CNA) Taiwan should prepare response strategies in the face of mainland China's progress in navy modernization, a retired ROC Navy vice admiral said Sunday.

    Lan Ning-li told media before attending a seminar on beefing up Taiwan's combined services combat capabilities sponsored by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that the mainland Chinese flotilla that visited Hong Kong earlier this month demonstrated the People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) progress in naval modernization.

    Eight mainland Chinese warships -- including two guided-missile destroyers, four frigates and two submarines -- and 1,500 officers made a six-day port call in Hong Kong last week. The ROC Ministry of National Defense had said the passage of the mainland naval fleet through the Taiwan Strait didn't pose any threat to Taiwan's security.

    However, Lan said the mainland fleet shows that the PLA now possesses integrated above-water and underwater combat capabilities. "Photos indicated that the two mainland submarines were equipped with sound-absorbing coverings, which will have an impact on our anti-submarine weaponry and sonar systems and pose greater threats to our naval defenses, " Lan said, adding that Taiwan must carefully study mainland China's naval modernization and work out response strategies.

    Speaking at the DPP seminar, Lan said the ROC military should take a second thought on its plan to integrate the Navy's Haifeng fleet into the newly established missile command center.

    The Ministry of National Defense (MND) set up a missile units comman center April 1 and planned to integrate the Haifeng fleet, which possesses land-based Hsiung-feng anti-ship missiles, into the missile command July 1.

    In his view, Lan said, the MND's plan is a "rash" move. "At the moment, the Haifeng fleet command can fire a land-based Hsiung-feng missiles against an invading mainland warship in three minutes. If the Haifeng fleet is integrated into the new missile command, then it will take up to seven minutes to make a response to a mainland naval attack. Should that be the case, we'll be unable to cope with a possible mainland surprise attack or its decapitating combat tactics," Lan warned.

    The seminar was chaired by DPP Legislator Lin Cho-shui. In addition to Lan, other participants included former Vice Defense Minister Chen Pi-chao, retired Army Lt. General Shui Hua-min, DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung and Tsai Ming-yen, an assistan professor at National Chunghsing University.

    All of the participants agreed that the armed forces should cut the ratio of army in the overall military personnel while expanding the manpower of navy and air force to cater to the island's defense needs.

    The participants further said that under the two newly implemented defense laws, the military's vertical and horizontal command links are too complicated and cannot meet the demand of modern warfare which typically requires quick response. They urged the military to overhaul its command structure as early as possible.

(By Sofia Wu)

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