Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taiwan Is Losing the Spying Game

If President Ma Ying-jeou doesn't clean house in his military, the US could become more reluctant to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan

Much ink has been spilled in recent months over the Obama administration's reluctance to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D fighters it has been requesting since 2007. A final decision is expected by Oct. 2, and while many observers predict that political considerations will lead Washington to nix the deal, another factor may be at work: the penetration of almost every sector of Taiwanese society by Chinese intelligence. For the U.S. government and defense manufacturers, any arms sale to Taiwan carries the risk that sensitive military technology will end up in Beijing.

This worry is not new. Anyone who has followed developments in Taiwan over the years knows how deeply Chinese forces have infiltrated Taiwan's military, especially its senior officers. For years American officials have looked on in amazement as newly retired Taiwanese generals traveled to China for a round of golf, were wined and dined by their counterparts in the People's Liberation Army, and no doubt had their inebriated brains picked for information.

Taiwan's reputation has not been helped by a string of embarrassing cases involving members of the armed forces or civilians who spied for China. Some of the programs compromised involved American assistance, such as the Po Sheng "Broad Victory" upgrade to the military's command and control infrastructure. Even more damaging are the instances when culprits got away with a light sentence. Earlier this year Lai Kun-chieh, a software engineer, received a mere slap on the wrist for attempting to pass information about the PAC-3 Patriot missile defense system to China.

My commentary, published today in the Wall Street Journal, continues here.


HCC said...

>>>Anyone who has followed developments in Taiwan over the years knows how deeply Chinese forces have infiltrated Taiwan's military, especially its senior officers.

I, for one, do not. Guess I must've missed the headlines from "Warmonger Weekly." However, if Uncle Sam was not worried when sitting Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen visited the PLA (and was shown a variety of PLA goodies), I don't think the ROC government has as much to worry about when some of its "retired" generals met up with their PLA counterparts for a few rounds of golf.

I also don't know which American officials looked at that in amazement. The ones I've seen have continued to applaud the Ma administration for reducing cross-strait tension and thereby the likelihood of the loss of American lives in the event of an armed conflict. Frankly, I have been in more amazement of the tireless effort by the pan-green to preach the politic of hatred to its followers, domestic or foreign. But I guess that's not as damaging to "Taiwan's reputation."

Michael Fagan said...

"I, for one, do not. Guess I must've missed the headlines from "Warmonger Weekly."..."

Shouldn't have had your head stuck up your commie arse then should you?

Catalyst said...

"Frankly, I have been in more amazement of the tireless effort by the pan-green to preach the politic of hatred to its followers, domestic or foreign."

Comrade, yes, I suppose anyone who does not want Taiwan to be annexed by the PRC could be accused of following the politics of hatred. But perhaps one day, while your are idling in your bamboo cage in a 勞改 camp for expressing prohibited speech, you may look back and wonder which side really practices politics of hatred.

gboomoo said...

You do forget that officially Republic of China still pursuing one-China policy, and it is one of the cornerstone of ROC's military belief. To many in the military, there is a dedicate balance between not being absorbed by the Communist on one hand, and having nationalistic (in this case, entire Chinese civilization) interest not being superseded by foreign powers on the other hand. Most of Western powers completely ignore this deep layers of nationalistic belief, viewing cross-strait relationship through a 50 years old cold-war lens.

In this particular case of arm's sale, you have overestimated how much saying Taiwan really have. Being a sole arm supplier, US has overwhelming power over what kind of weapon and how much it would cost. In other strategic region, US has given away arms in form of aids (Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, etc, etc). The sheer fact that US is SELLING arms to Taiwan instead of giving it away, and the topic of discussion is on F-16 instead of F-35 should be seen as a clear signal on its own.

Lastly, there is a strategic question which Taiwan themselves need to answer above any spy games / weapon purchase issues: is maintaining arm parity a reasonable strategy to pursuit? After all, Taiwan is an island of 23 million, while mainland China is a land of 1.3 billion and being second largest economy in the world. Is pursuit of arm parity even a feasible long term strategy given the economic parity? Is it in Taiwan's interest to be vanguard of other foreign power's strategic interest in exchange for unreliable supply of dated military hardware and other economic concession? These decision has its potential cost: putting entire island of population at risk of having 60 years of hard-earned progress being obliterated overnight, while going down history as a traitor partly responsible for destruction of 5000 years of continuous civilization which Taiwan has spend more effort than mainland Chinese to preserve?

These are questions which leaders in Taiwan have not think it through. Without having these strategic question answered, it is pointless to argue about how many F-16s and what kind of F-16s should Taiwan get, and who should be blamed for not having them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Michael, just wanted to say congratulations on bringing attention to an important issue which has festered for a long time. There have been dozens of spy cases in Taiwan during the last two decades involving the PRC; some of these spies were in Taiwan’s NSB, Investigation Bureau as well as the military. This not only limits what the US is willing to sell but it also erodes Taiwan’s military, technological, political and social interests/security. I hope the face-saving criticism from some of the KMT legislators doesn’t amount to anything. Although, this being Taiwan, it will probably blow over in a few days.

Anonymous said...

Joe Hung at the China Pest wrote this unsigned editorial re all this:

Military reform must give Taiwan the will to stand tall

by Joe Hung, CNA chairman, 79 yrs old, former communist, now KMT champion

Jane's Defense Weekly correspondent J. Michael Cole wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing that if the Ma administration does not stand tall in its cross-strait policy and lacks determination to houseclean Taiwan's military intelligence, the U.S. will become reluctant to share the kind of weapons and intelligence that the nation needs to keep China off its shores. He may be right or wrong. However, Mr. Cole's concern deserves to be thanked. But perhaps Taiwan must not go back to such a cold-war mentality when the world is undergoing unprecedented globalization. Especially when China is a rising power attracting the world to do business there and that cross-strait relations have passed beyond the zero-sum game into a new, cooperative, win-win phase.

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