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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

China's aircraft carrier has no direct impact on Taiwan: ex-official

Central News Agency

2011/08/10 20:15:43

By Chen Hung-chin and Sofia Wu

Taipei, Aug. 10 (CNA) The launch of China's first aircraft carrier is not expected to have a direct impact on Taiwan from a military standpoint in the short term, former Deputy Defense Minister Lin Chong-pin said Wednesday.

Lin made the remarks after China's official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier in the day that the country's first aircraft carrier, the "Varyag," had begun its maiden sea trial after being purchased from Ukraine and refitted.

"I don't think Beijing intends to use Varyag to attack Taiwan because it does not need to do so," Lin said in an interview with CNA.

According to Lin, there were three principal purposes behind China's aircraft carrier development project.

First, the aircraft carrier can help protect shipments of oil and other commodities to China via the Indian Ocean, said Lin, who is now a professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

Second, the project will enable China to combine the three branches of its armed forces to build up oceanic fleets and facilitate its military diplomacy.

Most importantly, the project will highlight China's position as a major power and satisfy the Chinese people's emotional needs and nationalistic sentiments.

Not only do major powers such as the United States, Russia, Britain and France, but also some Asian countries such as India and Thailand, have their own aircraft carrier battle groups, Lin said. The absence of an aircraft carrier fleet have prompted some Chinese people to ask Beijing authorities why China is economically and militarily inferior to Thailand.

In his view, Lin said the Varyag is more of a symbol to enhance Chinese people's self-identity and psychological fulfillment than a new milestone of its military might.

While Lin did not believe the Varyag project targets Taiwan, he cautioned that China's continued military buildup, including acquisitions of destroyers, frigates, submarines, jet fighters, missiles and aircraft carriers, would make Taiwan more vulnerable.

Given China's advanced arsenal, Taiwan's supersonic Hsiungfeng III anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles would be like "a mosquito biting an elephant," Lin said.

Nevertheless, Lin said, China is fully aware of the huge price it would have to pay to use force against Taiwan and thus currently prioritizes the use of economic, cultural, political and diplomatic means to deal with issues related to Taiwan.

Even though China has not abandoned its intention to use force against Taiwan, it is the least likely option for the moment, Lin said.

He further said that while the Varyag's sea trial would have little direct impact on Taiwan militarily in the short term, it would symbolize an increase in China's military bargaining chip over the long run.

"When the two sides go to the negotiation table, they would count on both their soft power and hard power," Lin said. By then, Taiwan could find itself very vulnerable.

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