If Taiwan did not face a determined opponent like China, its armed forces would probably be adequate. But in the face of a rising and still belligerent power, the stalled modernization of the Taiwanese military is worrying — and largely the KMT’s making
Last week’s United Air Defense Fire missile exercise — the largest since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008 — sparked consternation in many circles after six of the 19 missiles fired either misfired or encountered technical problems.
Although a hit ratio below 70 percent is considered less than optimal, what several media outlets omitted — fixated as they were on the failures — was the fact that some missiles, including the indigenous Tien Kung II “Sky Bow,” the only potential “game changer” on display last week, performed quite well.
Given the timing of the exercise and the fact that reporters were allowed on the Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology’s (CSIST) off-limit Jiupeng missile testing base for the first time since 2002, the Ministry of National Defense was likely seeking to send a signal of strength to China. The failures and the subsequent media focus on the shortcomings indicate that that effort may have backfired and highlighted weakness rather than strength.
Ma, who attended the exercise, said after its conclusion that he was not satisfied with the outcome and called on the armed services to determine what went wrong and redouble their efforts.
While there is little to disagree with in Ma’s remarks, there is no small irony in the fact that his discontent targeted an exercise that fielded equipment that belongs in a museum rather than in the field facing a military giant.
My editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.