Thursday, October 8, 2009

Taiwan-China Mil-to-Mil Report False

Defense News


Taiwan-China Mil-to-Mil Report False

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - Media reports that the U.S. Pacific Command (PaCom) is sponsoring a military-to-military dialogue between China and Taiwan for this summer appear to be incorrect.

Over the past week, media reports here have indicated China and Taiwan would conduct military discussions in Hawaii sponsored by PaCom. These reports are erroneous, sources here and in Washington say.

China and Taiwan will send senior military officers to attend the Transnational Security Cooperation Course provided by the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), a U.S. Department of Defense-funded think tank based in Hawaii. This has been exaggerated as a formal military-to-military meeting by the local press, a Taiwan defense official said.

"Yes, this is an old issue," a former U.S. military official said. "The Chinese had sent guys to the APCSS course, but withdrew once an invitation was sent to the Taiwan military to send students. It settled into a one year Taiwan, next year China, next year Taiwan, etc. I don't recall them both going at the same time, but I could be wrong. In general, it's just not a big deal."

There has been cross-Strait fever in Taiwan since direct flights began in 2008 after the presidential election of Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Ma has openly discussed confidence-building measures and a possible peace treaty with China.

However, China and Taiwan military officials have exchanged views and met on numerous occasions, often during nongovernmental venues, such as the annual Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, the Taiwan source said.

"There have been Chinese military visits to Taiwan, under think tank, nonofficial guise," the U.S. source said. "They've been together as adjunct fellows at think tanks here in Washington, D.C. They've been together at conferences in Europe. It's actually been going on since the early to mid-1990s."

Despite the false media reports, there have been increased discussions about creating friendlier relations across the Taiwan Strait to facilitate possible exchanges of official military delegations. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense has openly acknowledged the possibility.

Although friendly relations might ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait, it has raised concerns that "too much of a good thing" could erode Taiwan's security.

Critics are pointing to the visit of a "Chinese spy boat" to the southern port of Kaohsiung from April 1-4. Docked at the harbor's True Love Wharf, the MV Xue Long (Snow Dragon) is an A2-class icebreaker and Arctic research ship assigned to the Polar Research Institute of China.

Although it has been accused of spying in the past - in March 2005, Taiwan frigates chased it out of the island's territorial waters - a military official said the Snow Dragon was ordered to turn off all electronic monitoring equipment before entering Taiwan waters. Kaohsiung is the largest naval base in Taiwan.