Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hsiung Feng-III SSM deployment isn’t news — it’s old news

Unable to provide any deliverables on defense, the Ma administration has resorted to news recycling to give the appearance that it remains committed to a strong military

A number of newspapers and wire services in recent of days, among them the Chinese-language United Daily News and state-owned Central News Agency, have reported that the Taiwanese military has begun deploying Hsiung Feng-III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles on destroyers and corvettes ahead of the expected release later this year or early next year of China’s first aircraft carrier.

Although the news has been splashed all over the place and picked up by various online defense forums, one caveat is in order: Before you get too excited about this, it should be said that Taiwanese authorities have been saying pretty much the same thing since at least 2006. In fact, one Kidd-class destroyer was observed sporting four HF-3 launcher tubes while berthed at Suao in 2006. That same year, Taipei was announcing a budget for the production of 120 HF-3s and plans for their deployment at sea.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who sits on the legislature’s Diplomacy and National Defense Committee, has taken the lead in ensuring the story gets as much exposure as possible.

Rather than actual news, this “revelation” is nothing more than deception, an attempt by the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration to prove, amid clear signs to the contrary, that it is doing something about national defense.

With efforts to acquire F-16C/Ds stalled in Washington and Taipei struggling to find the money to implement an all-volunteer military (which led to reports earlier this week that Taiwan could seek payment deferrals on some weapons systems already approved for sale by the US), Ma’s KMT may be desperate, especially as presidential elections will be held eight months from now. (Although the Ministry of National Defense refuted the report on the payment deferral, it has yet to account for a post on its Web site at the weekend that said pretty much the same thing as the China Times article on Monday. Someone with access had to post the report!)

Once we look through the smokescreen, it becomes painfully apparent that in the three years since Ma came into office, Taiwan’s ability to defend itself has suffered tremendously — and fabricated “news” about a supersonic SSM deployment will not resolve that problem.

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