Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Taiwan issues 2013 Quadrennial Defense Review

Cross-strait ties may have improved, but  the new report makes it clear that China remains Taiwan’s top security threat 

Despite the “institutionalization of cross-Strait rapprochement” launched by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), China has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan and remains the nations primary military threat, the Ministry of National Defense says in the 2013 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released yesterday.

Under the National Defense Act (國防法), the ministry is required to produce a QDR — a collaborative effort between defense officials, other government agencies and academics to provide the “uppermost” defense policy guidance for the next four years — within 10 months of a president’s inauguration. The last QDR was issued in March 2009.

Building on the principles of establishing a “hard ROC” laid out in the previous report, the 2013 QDR “strives for innovative development by guiding the ROC Armed Forces to maximize available defense resources and to meet security challenges in an effective manner.”

Divided into four sections, the first part, “Security Environment and National Defense Challenges,” lists the principal traditional security challenges facing the nation. With regards to China, the report says its rise is the “primary factor” for change in the Asia-Pacific security environment, adding that Beijing’s “core objective” is to “sustain economic development and enhance comprehensive national power.”

“In the foreseeable future, Mainland China’s political and military power will continue to grow, gradually changing the Asia-Pacific balance of power, geo-strategic situation and regional security,” the report says. “Mainland China’s military modernization has progressed rapidly. Its force projection capabilities have extended over the First Island Chain into the Pacific.”

“China has never renounced the use of force and continues to carry out military preparations against Taiwan and a third party that might intervene into the Strait,” it says, adding that China’s active development of “anti-access/area denial (A2/AD)” capabilities will “threaten the U.S. force projection in the Western Pacific and freedom of action in East Asia,” which could possibly include intervention in a Taiwan Strait contingency.

Besides China, “sovereignty claims over disputed islands and maritime rights and interests continue to escalate,” it says. Other challenges include the unstable situation in the Korean Peninsula and the US “rebalancing” strategy.

A low birth rate and “weakening public awareness of security threats” also pose non-traditional security challenges, it says.

To address those, the military must “actively engage force readiness, establish multiple capabilities, closely cooperate with neighboring countries, appropriately allocate and utilize defense resources, and encourage public engagement in defense affairs … to ensure our national security, maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait, and contribute to the stability of the Asia-Pacific region.”

Section two, “National Defense Policy and Strategic Guidance,” says that current defense policy gravitates around seven principles, namely: building credible capabilities; demonstrating defense resolution; safeguarding regional stability; strengthening intangible combat capabilities; enhancing disaster prevention and relief preparedness; promoting voluntarism; and improving welfare for military personnel.

Taiwan will continue to seek war prevention, homeland defense, contingency response, conflict avoidance and regional stability through the concept of “resolute defense, credible deterrence,” the report says.

While striving for such objectives, the military will renounce producing, developing, acquiring, storing or using nuclear weapons and will continue to abide by its responsibilities under the Missile Technology Control Regime.

As it prepares for possible armed conflict, the armed forces will continue to focus on joint warfighting capabilities and preparedness, the topic of section three of the report. Given the various security threats and limited resources, the military will adopt “innovative and asymmetric” concepts, including joint counter air, sea control and ground defense capabilities, the report says, adding that it will continue to develop command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, integrate logistics capabilities, and strengthen reserve mobilization and joint disaster relief capacities.

The last section of the report, “Defense Organization and Transformation,” turns to defense reform and says the military will strive to “strike a balance between military modernization and force streamlining” and to build a “‘small but superb, small but strong, small but smart’ elite force capable of handling all manner of defense challenges.” To do so, the military will replace “balanced force buildup” with “prioritized force buildup” and adjust its organizational structure in accordance with the principle of “accountability and specialization,” it says. Amid effort to create an all-volunteer force, the military will streamline active duty personnel and expand its reserve force, with the goal of reducing force levels to 215,000 by the end of next year, it says.

The full report can be accessed here.

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