Taiwan’s KMT Sets Defense Policy
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — Taiwan’s opposition, the Kuomintang (KMT) Party, has just released a defense white paper that outlines policies the KMT is likely to follow should former Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou win the presidential election scheduled for March 22.
Beijing is anxious about the election. Since Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became president in 2000, Beijing has been quietly waiting for the return of the more mainland-friendly KMT to the Presidential Palace.
Ma is facing DPP candidate Frank Hsieh, one of the founding members of the DPP and a defense attorney in the legendary Kaohsiung Incident in 1980.
Ma’s background may hurt his electoral chances. Born in Hong Kong in 1950 to Chinese parents from Hunan province, his family moved to Taiwan while he was an infant. This has brought accusations that he is too Chinese and not truly Taiwanese. He was educated at Harvard University and is considered a favorite of U.S. government officials.
His impressive political resume includes stints as justice minister and chairman of the KMT. While serving as justice minister, Ma prosecuted members of his own party for corruption, referred to as “black gold politics.”
He was once dubbed the “Teflon pot” for his ability to remain unscathed by political and personal scandals. Elected Taipei mayor in 1998 and re-elected in 2002, Ma resigned in February after being indicted by the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office on charges of abusing mayoral finances.
The KMT’s paper accuses the DPP of pro¬voking Beijing with policies and referendums that have endangered Taiwan.
“The DPP’s provocative policy toward de jure independence has been creating tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” it says. “In the face of growing PRC [People’s Republic of China] military capabilities, the DPP’s policy serves to strengthen Beijing’s determination against Taiwan, while impairing Taiwan’s international assistance, weakening our defense and softening the popular morale and will to fight.”
Chen is promoting a referendum on Taiwan’s entry to the United Nations. Although such a referendum would have little effect beyond underlining Chen’s fight for independence, Beijing has been adamant that any such vote would endanger security in the Taiwan Strait.
The paper, “A New Military for a Secure and Peaceful Taiwan,” assures readers that the KMT will pursue cross-strait peace, maintain the status quo and resume cross-strait dialogue in order to avoid miscalculation and accidents. Such language would no doubt reassure U.S. government officials that Taiwan will not rock the boat under a KMT president.
On peace in the Taiwan Strait, the paper demands the removal of China’s more than 800 short-range ballistic missiles, the Dong Feng-11s and DF-15s, aimed at Taiwan.
“We will initiate military-to-military exchanges, and negotiate to establish confidence-building measures (CBM) mechanism,” the paper says. “We will negotiate with Beijing on a peace accord in order to keep the Taiwan Strait peaceful and prosperous.”
But the paper also says that the KMT will not disregard the threat from Beijing, saying Taiwan will “harden” its defenses and defeat Chinese attempts to intimidate and invade the island.
“We will build a new military based on a defensive ‘Hard ROC [Republic of China]’ strategy,” it says. “We will harden up our defense to an extent that is unshakable with our high morale, undefeatable by blockade, unoccupiable under invasion, and uncrackable with our sustained resistance. When a war is unavoidable, we will effectively use our advantages in force, space and timing. We will attempt to win the first stage of conflict through rapid employment of forces, disturbing the enemy’s tempo of operations, and gain more time for international assistance.”
The KMT paper also reassures the public and Washington that the defense budgets of the future will be managed better. In 2001, the Bush administration offered Taiwan eight submarines, 12 P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot PAC-3 air defense missiles, and since that offer the budget for the items has been highly politicized in the legislative branch. The P-3 budget was just passed in June, but the effort took six years.
Submarines and PAC-3s are considered dead issues by many defense analysts in Taiwan. The budget mess has brought criticism from Washington that Taiwan does not take its defense seriously.
The paper suggests that a rational defense budget process is needed in the future: “Defense requirements, financial reality, cross-strait relations and public opinion are four cardinal considerations in shaping our defense budget. Actual defense spending will depend on the progress of the implementation of the all-volunteers system. In principle, however, the defense expenditure will not be lower than 3 percent of the GDP. The ratio of expenses on personnel, operations and military investment will be 4:3:3 in the breakdown of defense budget. Special budgets should not be used expect for unexpected circumstances.”