Taiwan urgently needs to buy submarines, missile defenses and patrol aircraft to counter the growing threat posed by China’s rapid buildup of military forces, a former Pentagon China specialist says.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stokes, until recently one of the top China policy-makers at the Pentagon, said the Chinese arms buildup is “extremely serious and growing more serious by the day.”
“Since 1999, the People’s Republic of China has embarked on a concentrated and aggressive campaign to diversify its options in order to force Taiwan’s political and military capitulation in an increasingly brief period of time,” Col. Stokes said.
Col. Stokes, currently a defense consultant living in Taiwan, provided his remarks to The Washington Times in an e-mail message after they first appeared in the Taipei Times.
Col. Stokes said Taiwan needs to buy the eight diesel electric submarines the United States offered several years ago, along with Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.
The submarines are needed to thwart China’s strategy of conducting a massive first strike on Taiwan at the outset of a conflict.
“China has a relatively weak anti-submarine warfare [ASW] capability, and submarines provide an asymmetrical means to put the [People’s Liberation Army’s] surface assets at risk,” Col. Stokes said, noting that the submarines could thwart China’s growing submarine force.
The overview by the former official comes as Taiwan is considering passage of a special $18 billion budget for new arms.
It also comes as Lian Chan, chairman of the nation’s opposition Kuomintang, or KMT political party, is set to make the first visit to China by a KMT leader since 1949, when the Chinese nationalist forces fled the mainland during a civil war.
The KMT in the past has opposed passage of the special arms budget.
Col. Stokes said the U.S. response to a Chinese attack on Taiwan will depend in part on how willing Taiwan is to defend itself.
Taiwan once was able to resist a mainland attack for months or weeks, but now has only days to survive, he said.
“This is why Taiwan needs to invest in a force that can sustain itself long enough for the United States to come to its aid,” he said.
“No one should expect the United States to enthusiastically risk the lives of its own young sailors, airmen, soldiers and marines to defend a Taiwan that is not willing to take the steps necessary to provide for a strong defense,” Col. Stokes said.
If a crisis happens in five or 10 years and Taiwan is not ready, then “future historians are very likely to place part of the blame on a KMT leadership that sacrificed long-term interests for short-term political gains,” he said.
Col. Stokes said that while submarines and patrol aircraft are needed, buying missile defenses should be the top priority.
China has an estimated 750 short-range missiles within range of Taiwan, according to defense officials.