Monday, December 27, 2004

Rising China Threatens Taiwan

Beijing, never content at oppressing the mere 1.2 billion already under its rule, continues to hurl ominous threats at the breakaway province of Taiwan.
China said on Monday its armed forces had a "sacred responsibility" to crush moves towards independence by Taiwan, whatever the cost, and described relations with the island as "grim".

The warning followed Beijing's announcement this month that it would submit an "anti-secession" bill to the National People's Congress next March.

The Communist government of China has repeated threatened the small island nation, terrified apparently, that the Taiwanese people should have the right to determine their own future. But, this is hardly surprising since no communist government can tolerate the existence of freedom and the rule of law anywhere, but particularly not on its own border. China's incessent stream of threats has become more worrying in recent years because of Bejing's rising economic strength, which will permit it to modernize its armed forces. Taiwan fields barely a fraction of China's military might, but its weaponery has mostly been purchased from the US. American technology has permitted the smaller Taiwanese military to present a much greater challenge to China's oxymoronically named People's Liberation Army (PLA). However, China is moving to change that.

Monday's defence white paper, the fifth to be published since 1995, said: "Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of 'Taiwan independence', the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost."

The PLA navy was focusing on training amphibious combat forces, while the airforce was continuing to switch its emphasis from territorial defence of China to both "offensive and defensive operations", the paper said.

Both amphibious landings and the projection of air power across the ocean would be prerequisites for an operation against Taiwan.

The paper also emphasised the need for China to continue pruning its armed forces into a smaller, more skilled and technologically advanced force. "The PLA . . . aims at building qualitative efficiency instead of a mere quantitative scale, and transforming the military from a manpower-intensive one to a technology-intensive one," the paper said.

Bejing has looked abroad for aid in augmenting its military technology.

Beijing has been lobbying the European Union to lift its arms embargo on China, in place since the killings near Tiananmen Square, a move Washington has interpreted as an attempt to counterbalance the potential weapons sale to Taiwan. The Pentagon has reacted angrily to EU moves to lift the ban.

In addition to the navy and airforce, the white paper also focused on the PLA's "second artillery force", which is responsible for China's nuclear deterrent and its growing conventional missile armoury.

The combination of all three, says the paper, is aimed at "winning both command of the sea and command of the air, and conducting strategic counter-strikes".

That Europe, which has enjoyed the protection of American military might for almost six decades, would consciously decide to undermine the US military by selling advanced weaponry to an American rival - especially a repressive, totalitarian rival against which the US may very well find itself waging war - should be interpreted as nothing short of an openly hostile act by the EU against the US. A betrayal of massive proportions - not merely of the US, but of every democratic principle that the EU purports to espouse. Washington has strongly protested.

Washington said that the prospect that its Pacific forces could be threatened by advanced European weapons sold to China was unacceptable and that lifting the embargo would lead to restrictions on American co-operation with Europe on defence issues.

“We can’t countenance the notion of advanced European weapons technology finding its way into the People’s Army and threatening our forces in the region, or Taiwan,” a US government official told The Times. “It is very close to the bone for us. It is not at all in the EU’s interest to lift the arms embargo.”

At an EU-China summit in The Hague, Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister, will tell Wen Jiabao, his Chinese counterpart, that Europe has agreed in principle to end the embargo once China improves its human rights record and the EU has agreed a new code of conduct for arms sales.

The embargo has become one of the most sensitive geo-political issues, with the United States worried that its European allies will be arming a country that it sees as a potential military rival. The US and EU each imposed an arms embargo after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 but France and Germany have been pressing to end it to boost sales for their defence industries and to improve relations with Beijing.

If the EU carries through on its planned arms sale to China, the US should immediately end transatlantic military cooperation, not merely impose an embargo. The day US allies seek to arm an enemy of the US in defiance of American pleas - particularly an enemy that can attack US soil - those nations cease to be allies. Should Europe go through with this policy, the NATO alliance should be dissolved, American troops and equipment brought home from Europe, and the American nuclear umbrella retracted. Moreover, the EU should be advised that should the weapons it sells to China be used against the US, the EU will be held militarily responsible.

The Bush administration has made no pronounced effort to confront the rising threat from China, which is likely only to encourage Chinese ambitions. While Washington remains occupied chasing RPG-wielding thugs in Mosul and Baghdad, China has brilliantly manipulated its trade relationship with the US into a cash cow bringing home hundreds of billions in American dollars to fuel its military acquistions, research and ulimately geopolitical ambitions.


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