The KMT has put the Taiwanese military in a position of weakness, both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Was it ineptitude, or part of a plan to erode Taiwan’s deterrent?
“We are so disappointed in the United States,” a Taiwanese defense official said over the weekend, reacting to confirmation that Taipei would not be sold the F-16C/D aircraft it has been seeking from the US since 2007.
While the sense of disappointment with Washington is perfectly understandable, another actor in the saga deserves equal condemnation, if not more: the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). It was the KMT, enjoying a majority in the legislature during then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, that blocked the budgets that would have allowed Taiwan to continue modernizing its armed forces.
Two possible scenarios present themselves here. Either the KMT undermined Taiwan’s defense apparatus as part of a plan to demonstrate, when it regained office in 2008, that it was stronger on defense than its predecessor, only to be caught wrong-footed when the backlog reached more than US$12 billion. Or it knew all along that this would happen and proceeded by orchestrating a gradual erosion of the nation’s deterrent capability.
Either way, the end result is the same. Taiwan today finds itself in a very difficult position when it comes to its ability to defend itself against aggression from China.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.