Taiwan is facing a growing threat from Chinese computer attacks and other information-based strikes designed to cripple its infrastructures, a senior Pentagon official says.
“China is actively developing options to create chaos on the island, to compromise components of Taiwan’s critical infrastructure — telecommunications, utilities, broadcast media, cellular, Internet and computer networks,” said Richard Lawless, deputy undersecretary of defense for East Asia and Pacific affairs.
Mr. Lawless said in a recent speech that China is looking at several “coercion options” for strategic information warfare to be conducted in a calculated manner.
“These threats range from computer network attacks to compromising Taiwan’s public utilities, communications, operational security and transportation,” he said.
Speaking at the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference held in Scottsdale, Ariz., which was attended by defense officials from the Republic of China (Taiwan), Mr. Lawless also warned that Taiwan’s legislature needs to pass a special $18 billion defense spending bill or risk losing international support. A copy of the Oct. 4 speech was obtained by The Washington Times.
“Make no mistake, the passage of this budget is a litmus test of Taiwan’s commitment to its self-defense,” he said.
The Bush administration has offered Taiwan about $20 billion in weapons systems, including guided-missile destroyers, P-3 anti-submarine aircraft, diesel submarines and Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems.
Since 2001, however, only $700 million in long-range radar systems were sent to bolster the island’s security. By contrast, China’s military has started a large-scale buildup of forces opposite the island that include about 600 missiles aimed at Taiwan.
China’s military also has stepped up work on information warfare — the use of computers and other weapons to target computer-based and electronic systems in crippling attacks, either electronically or with kinetic weapons.
The goal of the Chinese “would be to paralyze Taiwan’s economy and the government’s ability to function,” said Mr. Lawless, noting that Beijing’s information warfare efforts are targeting Taiwan’s ability to function as a society.
Mr. Lawless said Taiwan’s information infrastructure has a few physical connections that link its communications to the rest of the world. The United States, which is committed to preventing China from using force to reunite the island with the mainland, could be cut off from Taiwan, he said.
Security of energy supplies and transportation networks also must be strengthened.
“By hardening Taiwan critical infrastructure, Taiwan can protect itself from pervasive coercive attacks that could undermine domestic and international confidence in Taiwan’s ability to identify, manage and resolve a crisis,” Mr. Lawless said.
On Monday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman criticized Mr. Lawless for remarks that “highlighted the so-called military threat” from China.
China’s government protested the meeting in Arizona as a violation of the “one-China” policy of denying formal recognition to Taiwan’s government.