PENTAGON REPORT DOES NOT SUGGEST THREE GORGES DAM TARGETED: MND
Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Vice Defense Minister Tsai Ming-hsien said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Defense has never suggested that Taiwan should aim missiles at mainland China's Three Gorges dam as a way to deter any possible mainland invasion.
Tsai made the remarks at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Defense Committee, where opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Chiang Chi-wen asked about Tsai's view on a U.S. media report that the Pentagon has suggested that Taiwan consider aiming missiles at certain large mainland infrastructure projects, such as the Three Gorges dam, with a view to deterring any possible mainland attack.
The U.S. weekly "DefenseNews" reported in its latest issue that the Pentagon furnished Congress with a 54-page mainland military strength evaluation report May 28 that said the mainland's military modernization is gradually eroding Taiwan's air superiority and other advantages and that the cross-Taiwan Strait military balance is steadily tilting in favor of the mainland. Against this backdrop, the weekly said, the Pentagon came up with the "targeting the Three Gorges dam" proposal.
Tsai told lawmakers that the U.S. weekly report is incorrect and that the Pentagon report made no such suggestion.
According to Tsai, the Pentagon report mentioned that the mainland threat to the Asia-Pacific and Taiwan Strait security has increased steadily and that the mainland is likely to launch a small-scale attack or take some military action against Taiwan in the near future, either in 2006 or 2008.
As the United States has extensive intelligence concerning the mainland's military strength, Tsai said, the Pentagon forecast was based on its evaluation of the mainland's increasing air and naval superiority over Taiwan.
Tsai said the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has formulated various response measures to cope with new developments. Nevertheless, he went on, self-defense and establishing an elite deterrent force remain the MND's top military build-up goals. "We'll never take any action to provoke China. We'll adopt appropriate countermeasures only after China launches the first strike against Taiwan," Tsai said, adding that Taiwan's armed forces will launch counterattacks primarily on mainland military facilities or the base from where a first strike against Taiwan is launched. In any event, Tsai said, the Three Gorges dam is not Taiwan's target.
The Cabinet has approved a special military budget of NT$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) for the purchase of advanced weaponry amid the mounting mainland military threat.
The draft budget calls for the procurement of eight submarines, a modified version of the Patriot PAC-III anti-missile system and a fleet of 12 P3-C anti-submarine aircraft over a 15-year period starting in 2005. The United States offered to sell the military hardware to Taiwan in 2001 as part of its most comprehensive arms package to the island since 1992.
Foreign Affairs Minister Tan San Chen said earlier in the day he thinks the large military procurement plan can to some extent serve as a bargaining chip or diplomatic clout for Taiwan in promoting substantive relations with the United States.
Tsai's comments on the Pentagon report drew mixed reactions from legislators of different political stripes. While ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers said legislators from the opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the KMT and the People First Party (PFP) should support the special arms procurement budget plan in view of ever-mounting mainland military threat, opposition lawmakers said they doubt the correctness of the Pentagon prediction of a "small-scale mainland attack on Taiwan" in 2006 or 2008.
PFP Legislator Chin Hui-chu said she believes that so long as President Chen Shui-bian does not push for the enactment of a new constitution for Taiwan or take other pro-independence moves, Beijing is not likely to attack Taiwan.
KMT Legislator Chiang Chi-wen said if the Pentagon assessment is correct, Taiwan should study the feasibility of pruchasing some offensive weapons from the United States in order to more effectively protect its security.
Chiang's colleague, Lu Hsiu-yen, said the MND should not quote the Pentagon report to intimidate the people of Taiwan and to force the legislature to approve the huge arms procurement budget plan. In her view, it's already too late for Taiwan to propose this 15-year arms procurement plan should the Pentagon prediction is truly correct.
(By Sofia Wu)
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