Taiwan's defense advantages declining: Pentagon report
ROC Central News Agency
Washington, June 7 (CNA) China's decades of military modernization has eroded many of Taiwan's historical advantages in deterring People's Liberation Army (PLA) aggression, the U.S. Department of Defense said in an annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving China.
Those historical advantages include the Taiwan military's technological superiority, the geographic advantages of island defense, and the PLA's inability to project sufficient power across the Taiwan Strait, according to the report that was released Tuesday.
"Although Taiwan is taking important steps to build its war reserve stocks, grow its defense-industrial base, improve joint operations and crisis response capabilities, and strengthen its officer and non-commissioned officer corps, these improvements only partially address Taiwan's declining defensive advantages," the report said.
Taiwan plans to transition to an all-volunteer force by 2019, but the transition has slowed due to "severe difficulties" in recruiting enough volunteers, the report said.
According to the report, China's military budget grew at an average of 8.5 percent per year from 2007 through 2016, and has grown to roughly 14 times that of Taiwan's, which remains at around 2 percent of its gross domestic product.
According to the report, the PLA is capable of accomplishing various amphibious operations short of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.
China could invade Taiwan-held islands in the South China Sea, such as Dongsha or Taiping islands, or medium-sized islands such as Kinmen or Matsu, according to the report.
But such military operations would involve "significant, and possibly prohibitive, political risk because it could galvanize pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan and generate international opposition," the report said.
In the report, the department reconfirmed that the U.S. maintains a one-China policy that is based on the three Joint Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
"The United States opposes any unilateral change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side and does not support Taiwan independence," the report said.
Meanwhile, China has continued with shore-based infrastructure construction in the South China Sea.
As of late 2016, China was constructing 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of three outposts -- Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs.
"Once all these facilities are complete, China will have the capacity to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands," the report said.
(By Rita Cheng and Christie Chen)
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