March 3, 2008
KMT Presidential Candidate Outlines Taiwan Security Strategy
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — Taiwan should trade its “offensive defense” posture for a “Hard ROC defensive stance,” said Ma Ying-jeou, the Beijing-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate for Taiwan’s presidency.
The front-runner in the March 22 election, Ma unveiled his national security strategy, dubbed “SMART,” in a Feb. 26 speech to the Association for the Promotion of National Security, a largely pro-KMT group whose membership consists of retired military officers. The gathering included former National Security Bureau Director Ting Yu-chou and former Defense Ministers Wu Shi-wen and Tang Fei.
Local polls show Ma in the lead over proindependence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh. Ma’s election would end eight years of DPP control of the presidency.
In his speech, Ma said his administration would upgrade the island’s C4ISR and air and missile-defense systems, and would urge the United States to release the F-16s Taiwan wants to buy.
He said his administration would demand that China dismantle missiles aimed at Taiwan, hold military exchanges and set up a bilateral military confidence-building mechanism.
“We will also negotiate a cross-strait peace agreement,” he said.
Ma said his policy would draw on the ancient teachings of a Chinese philosopher. “The governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should learn from Meng Tzu, who taught that small states have to be smart, not impulsive, in dealing with big states, and that big states should be tolerant, not overbearing, in dealing with small states.” Ma said the acronym SMART is derived from “the four pillars of national security that need to be buttressed: national defense, diplomacy, politics and culture, and the economy.”
■ S is for soft power and globalization. Over the last eight years, Taiwan has been hemorrhaging technology and jobs to China and has seen foreign investment drop, which have weakened its ability to exercise soft power in the region.
■ M, for military deterrence. Ma criticized DPP strategy of deterrence through weapons such as the under-development Hsiung Feng 2E land-attack cruise missile.
“Offensive defense is not only infeasible, but also dangerous: infeasible because to practice it, Taiwan would need to develop weapons with massive destructive power; nothing less would provide effective deterrence,” he said. “This approach to defense is dangerous because it would invite foreign intervention, or even a preemptive strike by Mainland China.” Instead, Ma wants a military that can blunt the first waves of a Chinese invasion: “If and when war becomes inevitable, we must capitalize on ... mobility, knowledge of the local terrain and time to win the initial victory ... and turn the tide. We believe that Taiwan’s defensive stance should be to arm and armor ourselves only to the point that the Mainland cannot be sure of being able to launch a ‘first strike’ that would crush our defensive capacity and resolution immediately. If the Mainland lacks confidence in this respect, its strategic calculations will become more complex and difficult, and the temptation to make a surprise attack will diminish.” Key to this are 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft, the sale of which the White House has blocked. Taiwan flies aging F-5s and 150 F16s bought in the 1990s.
■ A, for assuring the status quo. Ma’s “Three No’s” policy — no to reunification, independence and military conflict — is aimed at soothing Beijing and Washington after the DPP’s increasingly independence-oriented talk. He said he would work to restore dialogue and exchange with the mainland.
“We will adopt a pragmatic attitude in resuming dialogue and consultation with Beijing on the basis of the 1992 Consensus, or ‘one China, different interpretations,’” Ma said. “In the 1990s, 24 cross-Strait talks were held, but dialogue was interrupted completely in 2000.”
One senior Taiwan military official was incredulous about Ma’s Three No’s.
“One must be totally blind to not notice that the status quo has been changed by Chinese threats,” he said. “If something has been changed, it is by definition not status quo. Can anyone be so naive to believe it is up to Taiwan to decide unification, independence or use of force? With the growing Chinese military and political power, do they have to follow Ma’s command ‘not to use force’ and ‘no unification’? Or it is up to the Taiwanese people to try to protect our own democratic way of living? He is still trying to brag about the dialogues in [the] 1990s. At that time, China had only a few missiles, no advanced submarines and no capability to destroy satellites.” But groundwork has been laid for some of Ma’s aims. In 2005, Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed in communiqués with then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan and People’s First Party Chairman James Soong to sign a peace accord ending hostilities.
“The road to a possible peace accord would be a complex, difficult and prolonged process, and may not be achieved in the next president’s four-year term. However, getting the process started and laying a sound and solid foundation when Hu Jintao is in power would be crucial for Taiwan’s long-term security,” said Alexander Huang, a senior associate of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies who lives in Taipei.
“Even if Ma’s administration wishes to pursue a peace treaty with Beijing as offered by Hu Jintao, he should not go to the negotiation table from a position of weakness or he will be dictated [to] by Beijing, and severely criticized domestically,” said Lin Chong-Pin, president of the Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies, and former Taiwan deputy minister of defense.
■ R, for restoring mutual trust with the United States, which Ma called his “most important task.” “We hope that the Americans will rebuild this relationship based on the Taiwan Relations Act and Reagan’s Six Assurances,” Ma said. “We understand that, pragmatically speaking, the United States is our last defense, and we promise Taiwan will bear responsibility for its own self-defense through reasonable procurement of defensive armaments and by never involving the U.S. in an unnecessary conflict.”
■ The final T in SMART stands for Taiwan, Ma said.