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.

What is the PLA hiding underneath Hebei?

Many questions surround China’s nuclear policy. The construction of a 5,000km tunnel, ostensibly to shelter its nuclear arsenal, is raising even more

Military watchers in recent years have made much of the rapid modernization of China’s military, focusing primarily on the introduction of new platforms, such as the J-20 stealth fighter and the refurbished Varyag aircraft carrier, or advances in missile technology, such as the Dong Feng-21D “carrier killer.” 

To a large extent, this is also what the US Department of Defense’s latest report on the Chinese military released last week zeroed in on.

However, since 1995, tens of thousands of soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been working on a project that, to date, has attracted surprisingly little attention. That this is the case befuddles the mind, as this endeavor, first revealed in a 2008 CCTV documentary and confirmed by the PLA’s China Defense Daily in December 2009, has the potential to alter the strategic balance in the Pacific. Stunningly, the new Pentagon report only makes one brief mention of that development.

The project in question is a 5,000km tunnel, dubbed the “underground Great Wall,” which the Second Artillery has been digging in the mountainous regions of Hebei Province. The Second Artillery is in charge of China’s ballistic missile arsenal, including its strategic nuclear deterrent, though the latter falls under direct command of the Central Military Commission.

According to reports, the tunnel is being built to store China’s nuclear arsenal.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Knowing when to put politics aside

The Ma camp committed a faux pas of sorts on Sunday by insisting on talking politics as the nation braced for a powerful typhoon

As a powerful typhoon approached Taiwan on Sunday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is seeking re-election in January, did what any true leader would do in such a situation: He called an impromptu press conference.

However, rather than discuss emergency preparedness before the storm, which had already killed eight people in the Philippines, Ma decided to take his main opponent in the election, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), to task on a question that clearly was on everybody’s mind on such a day — the so-called “1992 consensus.”

With the mudslides triggered by Typhoon Morakot in 2009, which left more than 700 people dead or missing in the south, still fresh in everyone’s mind, the matter of an alleged consensus that may or may not have been fabricated post-facto is evidently what any responsible president should be focusing on. Thankfully, it now appears that Typhoon Nanmadol will not cause such devastation, but the fact remains that on Sunday, there was no way of knowing.

Had entire villages been devastated by mudslides in the coming days, somehow the victims would have felt better knowing that Ma is a true believer in the consensus and that this was what he was focused on as the storm was closing in.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ukraine, China’s arms bazaar par excellence

As Moscow grows reluctant to sell China its most advanced military technology, Beijing is using Ukraine as a backdoor to acquire what it wants

Chinese Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) paid a “goodwill” visit to Ukraine earlier this month, the first such visit by a top Chinese military officer in a decade. Beyond all the usual talk of strengthening “strategic” bilateral ties, one thing that stood out was the calls for greater cooperation on military production.

While meeting Chen, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the visit showed the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regarded Sino-Ukrainian relations as “one of their priorities.” As we shall see later, there’s a reason for that.

Among other sectors, Azarov called for deeper cooperation on aviation manufacturing, as well as on landing craft, hovercraft, large transport aircraft, tanks, air defense and radar, adding that he hoped analysis would be conducted for the implementation of a five-to-10-year bilateral cooperation plan.

Unsurprisingly, Chen said cooperation should indeed be deepened. No wonder, as China has long relied on Ukraine to access a variety of platforms and weapons systems denied it by Moscow. A source with a long history of watching the PLA Air Force and who spends a fair amount of time in the country every year told me recently that Ukraine served as a kind of arms bazaar for the Chinese. Two areas, aviation and naval technology, have seen increasing cooperation in recent years. This includes advanced aircraft engines, which remain problematic for Chinese manufacturers. In fact, US military analysts estimate that the engine bottleneck remains the principal problem preventing the deployment of China’s J-20 stealth aircraft.

While for the past decades Russia has been China’s primary source of weapons technology, both in terms of finished-product acquisitions and cooperation in manufacturing, in recent years Moscow has grown more reluctant to sell China its most advanced technology. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that Moscow, like the rest of the region, is growing wary of China’s rise. The second is that the Russian military is embarking on a modernization program of its own, and its manufactures can hardly produce enough devices to meet the requirements of the Russian armed forces, let alone build items for export (a third reason might have something to do with repeated theft of Russian technology by the Chinese, who then produce cheaper copies that compete directly against the Russian originals on the international arms market).

As a former member of the soviet bloc, Ukraine has been in a position to serve as a market for heritage military hardware, which China and others have benefited from. Given its proximity to Russia and longstanding ties in military production (not to mention transfers on the black market), the country is now an ideal alternative for China as it seeks to access the latest Russian technology. Chen’s visit was simply confirmation of that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

PRC steps up psychological warfare against Taiwan

Chinese espionage against Taiwan is not a new phenomenon. But growing contact between the two sides is creating new opportunities, and the Chinese intelligence apparatus is adjusting accordingly

China is intensifying its psychological warfare against Taiwan and appears to be using tourism as a means to collect intelligence in Taiwan, information obtained by the Taipei Times shows.

Reports on various Chinese military Web sites dating back to March last year reveal that the Nanjing Military Region’s General Political Department’s (GPD) 311 Base in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province, has been turned into a center of political warfare operations against Taiwan.

Reorganization efforts have seen China’s Voice of the Straits radio, formerly known as the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Fujian frontline broadcasting station,  incorporated into 311 Base [PLA Army unit 61716].

The station, a service launched in the 1950s to broadcast propaganda at Taiwan, introduced online broadcasting in April 2000.

The move was part of an expansion of psychological warfare from the radio station to a variety of fields, including publishing and other areas of contact with Taiwan, making 311 Base “the cornerstone of the PLA’s psychological warfare against Taiwan,” the reports said.

Included in those other “areas of contact” was tourism, the reports said, adding that 311 Base and its subsidiaries would make “further investments,” without specifying what those were.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. As you read this, remember what Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝), director of the National Security Bureau, told the legislature in May: “Many Chinese intelligence operatives use false identities, claiming they are visiting scholars or tourists, to travel here.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Senator suggests amendment could force sale of F-16s

Feeling he may have been outmaneuvered in a previous deal with Secretary of State Clinton, John Cornyn is upping the ante with a new proposal

A US senator on Tuesday said that if US President Barack Obama’s administration refuses to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it is requesting, he would push to have Congress approve the sale instead.

Republican Senator John Cornyn, who made the remarks after visiting Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth aircraft assembly plant in his home state of Texas, said Taiwan needed the aircraft to deter China.

“Congress has traditionally delegated this authority to the president, but it can pass legislation allowing this sale to take place,” Cornyn told the Star-Telegram.

“There’s significant support in Congress for providing our allies [Taiwan] with these planes, and I believe, under the Taiwan Relations Act, we’re obligated to do so,” he was quoted as saying.

Cornyn said an amendment to the defense authorization bill to approve Taiwan’s request could be introduced in October or November.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It’s a great story, so why is it being ignored?

It’s got treason, arms sales, politics, greed, conspiracy, and government incompetence written all over it. And Chinese-language Taiwanese media are ignoring it

Readers will have noticed that I have paid a lot of attention to a case involving the deportation to Taiwan last week of Ko-suen “Bill” Moo (慕可舜), the former top sales rep for Lockheed Martin in Taiwan who was arrested in the US in 2005 for trying to ship advanced military technology to China.

One thing that has struck me since I broke the story on the weekend, and followed with a couple of articles about his “disappearance” once US federal agents had handed him over to Taiwanese authorities, is the lack of interest among Chinese-language media. Surely, the fact that a number of government officials claim they do not to know what has become of Moo should, in and of itself, be sufficient to pique the curiosity of any reporter worth his salt. If that isn’t enough for them, news that while AIT informed Taiwan of Moo’s deportation, immigration and border agencies not only failed to meet him at the gate, but have since apparently “lost track” of him, should.

Among other things, Moo tried to sell a whole F-16 engine to China, not to mention air-to-air and cruise missiles. And he was part of a so-called “gang of four” within the Air Force that allegedly counted among its members a former minister of national defense.

The main argument used by reporters who have chosen not to pursue the story is that Moo committed a crime in the US (not in Taiwan), served time in a federal prison (nearly most of the six-and-a-half-year sentence he was given), and is now a private citizen who has paid his dues to society. In my opinion, this is a myopic perspective to have on a man who has clearly demonstrated he is no friend of Taiwan.

Even before his arrest in Miami, during the about 10 years when he was a Lockheed sales representative in Taiwan, his employer had doubts about Moo and tried, unsuccessfully, to have him fired. What gave rise to those doubts has yet to be unearthed, but whatever it was, it must have constituted the first building blocks of a pattern.

One does not simply wake up as an honest man one day, only to decide to perform a moral volte-face and commit treason. Double agents are cultivated, and usually the process is gradual. In other words, Moo very likely had been turned long before 2004, when it is believed that he “officially” started working as an agent for the People’s Republic of China. His first project for them, which was eventually abandoned, was to procure UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter engines. He then graduated to the F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engine for the F-16, and also sought to obtain an AGM-129 cruise missile and an AIM-120 air-to-air missile. This is pretty heavy (and deadly) stuff, and hardly the type of item one cuts his teeth on. Assuming the gradualism that usually characterizes the cultivation of an agent, Moo would have started with smaller and safer things to pass on to his handlers.

Having reached the point where he was willing to ship an entire fighter aircraft engine and advanced missile technology to China, where they would be reverse engineered and turned, in case of war, against Taiwan and the US, Moo confirmed beyond doubt that he had crossed a moral line and reached a point of no return. The severity of his infraction — even if he ultimately failed — makes it very difficult to believe that a few years in a US federal prison have turned him into an honest citizen again. He may, as the law defines it, have paid his dues to society, but to assume that he’s no longer a threat is a foolish assertion at best. What’s more, he now probably bears a grudge against the country that put him behind bars, and could very well seek revenge. His deep connections among the Taiwanese military still exist, and his accomplice in the US operation, a French national named Maurice Serge Voros, remains at large. And there are more Chinese in Taiwan today, from tourists to businesspeople, than ever before; in other words, the opportunities for contact today are much higher than they were prior to his leaving Lockheed.

Moo is still a threat, a man whose actions ultimately would put the lives of the people that I have come to love at great risk. He’s a traitor, and jail time notwithstanding, he should not be allowed to roam freely in our midst, plotting god knows what else against us.

How is this not an interesting story? How can this be ignored?

‘Apple Daily’ claims on Taiwan Strait incident stretch credulity

Nearly one month after reports emerged of an incident in the Taiwan Strait involving Chinese aircraft, a new article portrays the situation as being far more serious

The Chinese-language Apple Daily newspaper yesterday had an article in which it claimed that eight Chinese fighter aircraft, rather than two as initially reported, were involved in the June 29 incident in the Taiwan Strait, and that two of those went well beyond Taiwan’s side of the center line, taking them near Taiwan’s east coast.

The report also states that Sukhoi-27 and Su-30 aircraft were involved, with the aircraft coming in four waves of two fighters. The two aircraft that came within 150km off Taiwan’s each coast near Hualien — bringing Taipei within range of their air-to-ground missiles for a full 43 minutes — and to Japan’s ADIZ near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), were Su-30s, the article claims, adding that Taiwanese and Japanese fighters were scrambled to chase off the Chinese aircraft.

If true, such action by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would be escalation on an unprecedented scale.

Initial reports of the incident, which emerged late last month, said two Chinese Su-27s had been shadowing a high-altitude US U-2 surveillance aircraft and that in the process, one or two of the Chinese fighters had briefly crossed into Taiwan’s side of the imaginary median line in the Taiwan Strait. Follow-up reports argued that the incident was accidental.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense yesterday vehemently denied the information contained in the Apple Daily report. And for a reason — they are very likely false.

Readers are well aware that I am no big fan of Beijing’s claims on Taiwan or Chinese expansionism in the region, but such rash action as that described in the article sounds out of character for the Chinese Communist Party, especially at a time of high tensions in the region marked by growing apprehension among China’s neighbors and, perhaps most importantly, when relations between Taipei and Beijing are at their best in decades. It would make no sense whatsoever for Beijing to threaten Taiwan when its policy of annexing the latter appears to be on track. Furthermore, Taiwan will hold presidential and legislative elections in January next year; the leadership in Beijing remembers all too well (the 1995-1996 missile crisis in the Taiwan Strait) how self-defeating saber rattling can be in the lead-up to elections in Taiwan: The surest way for Beijing to give votes to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, and to have Taiwanese rally round the flag, is to threaten them militarily.

Almost invading Taiwanese airspace at this time would also make it likelier that the US would agree to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it has been seeking since 2007. Beijing, which sees such a sale as a “red line,” is well aware that Washington will likely not release the aircraft for Taiwan. Unless, that is, China makes it obvious, by being overly belligerent, that Taiwan needs them.

It is also interesting to note that the article, which does not identify any sources, comes mere days after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told the legislature that Taiwan’s hopes of getting the F-16C/Ds had all but vanished, making him the first senior Taiwanese politician to make such a claim publicly. Doubtlessly, someone passed on this “information” to the Apple Daily as a means to increase pressure on Taipei and Washington over the F-16s, on which a decision is expected to be announced on Oct. 1.

Then there’s the issue of Japan, its ADIZ and the Diaoyutai islets. It’s one thing for Chinese fishing vessels or marine security ships to come close to the disputed islands; it’s another one altogether to send modern multi-role fighter aircraft close to the area. Such provocation would only serve to strengthen the US-Japan alliance and encourage the latter to accelerate the modernization of its forces and deployments within the region, thus further “boxing in” China. Here again, Beijing would gain nothing from such an outcome.

Lastly, it is very difficult to believe that if, as the article claims, Japan was forced to scramble its own aircraft to intercept the Su-30s, such information would not eventually have been leaked to conservative Japanese media in the almost two months that have elapsed since the incident took place.

The CCP and the PLA may be strongly nationalistic, but they are not fools. China will escalate, but it will do so gradually, not by suddenly dispatching modern combat aircraft between Taiwan and Japan.

Taiwan’s self-defeating behavior

For the sake of the longstanding US-Taiwan alliance, it is incumbent upon Taipei to answer one question at this critical juncture: Where is Bill Moo?

At a time of great uncertainty over Taiwan’s ability to purchase advanced combat aircraft from the US, one would expect Taipei to do its utmost to send the right signals to Washington, not only that it takes national defense seriously, but also that it would ensure that US technology does not end up in China’s hands.

Struggling to convince the electorate that it is committed to national defense, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in recent years made no less than 21 appeals to Washington to agree to the sale of 66 F-16C/Ds. However, there is evidence that those sound bites aside, Taiwan’s efforts to secure the sale under Ma have been halfhearted at best. As a result, various reports have recently stated that the deal is all but dead and that Taiwan will have to make do with upgrades to its aging F-16A/Bs, which could include top-of-the-line radar technology.

Now recent developments are threatening even that. Enter Ko-suen “Bill” Moo (慕可舜), a former top sales representative for Lockheed Martin who was arrested in Florida in 2005 for attempting to sell, among other items, an F-16 engine to a region of China long known for its reverse-engineering of military technology. After doing time in a US federal prison, Moo was deported to Taiwan last week, where he promptly disappeared from radar screens.

However hard Taiwanese officials try to argue that Moo never broke any laws in this nation, the very presence in Taiwan of Lockheed Martin’s former top sales representative for radar and C4ISR systems for Taiwan, added to his deep contacts with the then-upper echelons of the air force, are enough to make one pause. Even more worrying is the fact that the authorities appear to be clueless as to his whereabouts.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Where is Bill Moo?

Despite notification by US authorities that Bill Moo was being deported to Taiwan, almost no one seems to know where, or who, he is

The controversy over the fate of Ko-suen “Bill” Moo (慕可舜), a Taiwanese businessman who was arrested by US federal agents in Miami in 2005 for attempting to ship sensitive military technology to China, continued to mount yesterday following his deportation from the US to Taiwan last week, with officials saying they have no idea about his whereabouts.

Moo, who was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in a US federal prison in 2005 for seeking to export defense articles — including an F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engine for the F-16 — to China, landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday, accompanied by two US officers.


In a press release on Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency said that upon arrival in Taiwan, Moo was turned over to local authorities. It added that Enforcement and Removal officers had coordinated the removal with the Homeland Security Investigations Office of International Affairs and local authorities in Taiwan.

However, judicial authorities on Friday said they had no information about Moo’s arrival.

In a follow-up by the Taipei Times, Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) said yesterday that the ministry also was “not aware” of Moo’s deportation.

Lo’s comment came despite confirmation to the Taipei Times by a senior officer from the National Immigration Agency’s Border Affairs Corps at the Taoyuan airport on Saturday that the American Institute in Taiwan had informed Taiwanese authorities prior to Moo’s deportation of his imminent arrival.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with comments from KMT and DPP legislators, as well as revelations about Moo, his role at Lockheed Martin, and his deep connections within the Taiwanese Air Force.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bill Moo’s back in town

The Taiwanese businessman who attempted to sell sensitive military technology to China in 2005 was deported to Taiwan this week. Where is he now? Judicial authorities don’t seem to know

A Taiwanese who was convicted of conspiring to export defense articles from the US to China on Tuesday was deported and returned to Taiwan, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said on Wednesday.

Ko-suen “Bill” Moo (慕可舜, pictured below) was arrested in Miami, Florida, on Nov. 9, 2005, by US Homeland Security Investigations agents for trying to purchase sophisticated military parts, including an F-16 aircraft engine and an AGM-129 cruise missile, and export them to China without obtaining an export license from the US Department of State.

Prior to his arrest, Moo had shown undercover ICE agents, whom he believed were individuals who could get him an F-16 engine, a document indicating that Beijing also wanted to acquire AGM-129 cruise missiles, as well as AIM-120 air-to-air missiles. He was arrested when he went to inspect the engine.

The businessman had previously been Lockheed Martin’s top agent in Taiwan. Among the projects he was involved in while representing the firm in Taiwan were the Anyu 4 air defense program. He was also the principal sales agent on the Po Sheng “Broad Victory” C4ISR project, which has long been the focus of Chinese espionage and resulted in a series of arrests by US authorities during the same period.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Note: Bill Moo has extensive connections, and it is very likely that prior to his arrival in Taiwan, orders were issued to judicial authorities not to lay a hand on him. More to come ...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No delays on Patriot systems, defense contractor says [with update from print version]

Although efforts to procure a fifth and sixth PAC-3 missile defense battery are ‘on track,’ Taiwan must sign the letter of authorization before the end of December, or prices could go up

A US defense contractor yesterday denied local reports that efforts by Taiwan to procure two additional PAC-3 air defense batteries were jeopardized by political bickering and a lack of funds.

The Chinese-language United Daily News on Monday wrote that since the US had agreed to sell two additional Patriot Advanced -Capability-3 (PAC-3) systems in January last year, the military had had difficulty raising enough money to complete the deal, as the cost of acquisition allegedly exceeded the military’s budget by as much as 40 percent.


Contacted for comment, an official at Raytheon, the US defense firm that manufactures the Patriot ground systems, said it was their understanding that the purchase of the two fire units [and one training unit] was “on track.”

That position was echoed by a US-based source familiar with the situation, who told the Taipei Times last night that the program was in the final stages and on schedule to be signed this fall. The ministry on Monday denied the reports and said it was proceeding with the purchase.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

UPDATE: A source who contacted me after deadline had passed confirmed a few things regarding the PAC-3 acquisitions. As mentioned in my article, upgrade work on the three PAC-2 batteries around Taipei is proceeding, with Raytheon delivering the first Configuration-3 radar set to Taiwan in June, reportedly 11 months ahead of the schedule set by the Taiwanese Air Force. Regarding the four PAC-3 batteries and 330 missiles included the 2008 notification, Taiwan has already signed the LOA and delivery is expected by 2014/15. As for the two other fire units, one training unit and 114 missiles and included in the 2010 notification, the LOA is currently going through review process in Taipei.

The US side hopes Taiwan will sign the LOA soon, as the price option for the items included in the 2010 notification — which holds prices for most parts at the same level as for the previous four fire units — will terminate at the end of December. Any delay in procurement could entail additional costs in future. According to the source, failure to procure the last two fire units could become a political issue, as it would leave a large part of southern Taiwan uncovered.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ex-‘Varyag’ gets unusual command

China’s first aircraft carrier will fall under direct command of the Central Military Commission, the highest state military organ, making it a “strategic” asset similar to China’s nuclear arsenal

The retrofitted Soviet-era hull has been assigned a commander and is set to be delivered to the Chinese navy by Aug. 1 next year, with entry into service in the South China Sea on Oct. 1, 2012. A ceremony unveiling its new name will be held in October this year.

My article, published today in Jane’s Defence Weekly, continues here (subscription required).

During last week’s sea trial, the carrier’s engines, electronic and navigation systems and weapons were all checked, with unconfirmed reports by Xinhua of a possible aircraft takeoff and landing on the flight deck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Attributing blame for the F-16 fiasco

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.

Cross-strait scientific research hits a snag

A neurobiologist at Peking University is seeking to change more than a decade of apolitical collaboration between scientists on both sides of the Strait

Cross-strait politics entered the world of science recently after a Chinese neurobiologist insisted that Taiwanese co-authors identify their university as being located in “Taiwan, China.”

News of the spat were first reported by ScienceInsider, a blog of the Science journal, on Friday, which said that cross-strait cooperation on scientific research had accelerated in the past decade. Usually, collaborators from both sides stayed clear of politics by avoiding references to “Republic of China” and “People’s Republic of China” and simply using “Taiwan” and China” respectively, it said.

However, the growing sense of nationalism in China appears to have entered the lab, with neurobiologist Rao Yi (饒毅) of Peking University insisting that a Taiwanese team led by neurobiologist Chiang Ann-shyn (江安世, pictured) of National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Hsinchu, which collaborated with Rao’s group on research, identify the university as being located in “Taiwan, China.”

Following back-and-forth visits and “exchanges of ideas,” one of Chiang’s students assisted Rao’s research team with scientific experiments seeking to understand the role of octopamine, a biomolecule, in the brain of Drosophila, a genus of small flies commonly known as “fruit flies.”

Rao drafted a paper on the findings and included Chiang and the student as co-authors. However, references to NTHU located it in “Taiwan, China.”

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hacking attack on DPP a potential ‘Watergate’

The nature of the classified information retrieved by hackers targeting the DPP underscores the KMT’s fears of losing next year’s election, a security expert says

The recent hacking attacks targeting Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials and senior staff at Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) presidential campaign office could be Taiwan’s version of the Watergate scandal, a former official in charge of electronic communications for the government has said.

The DPP last week announced that the e-mail accounts of senior officials and staff at Tsai’s office had been hacked into and that confidential information had been stolen. In a press release, the party said that an investigation had traced the attacks back to IP addresses from Xinhua news agency bureaus in Beijing and Malaysia, addresses in Australia, as well as the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC) in Taipei.

Among those targeted was Alex Huang (黃重諺), deputy director of the party’s Policy Research Committee, who said he received between 10 and 20 e-mails a day that looked like they were written by colleagues, but that, once opened, would automatically install malware that monitors a user’s computer.

A former senior official who handled electronic communication security under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity last week that the truly worrying aspect of the recent attacks was the domestic angle.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

F-16C/Ds for Taiwan no go

No F-16C/Ds will be sold to Taiwan, though the upgrade program on its F-16A/Bs will proceed and will include AESA radar as a sweetener.  But here's the catch: only one wing is to be retrofitted, rather than the whole 146 aircraft

Taiwan will not be getting the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it has been requesting since 2007, a Ministry of National Defense official has confirmed, and fewer of its older F-16s will be retrofitted, news that could strike a blow to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration as it heads into elections next January.

“We are so disappointed in the United States,” the official told Defense News on the sidelines of the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which ended on Saturday, blaming the decision on pressure from Beijing.

The article, released last night and written by the magazine’s Asia Bureau chief, Wendell Minnick, said a US Department of Defense delegation had arrived in Taiwan last week to deliver the news to Taipei and that as an alternative it had offered to secure the upgrade package for Taiwan’s ageing fleet of F-16A/B aircraft.

“The US Pentagon is here explaining what is in the upgrade package,” a US defense industry source told the magazine. “They are going to split the baby: no C/Ds, but the A/B upgrade is going forward.”

“The switch is meant to soften the blow of denying new planes to Taipei,” a source at Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16, told Defense News.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Clear skies ahead for Taiwan's AIDC

Regardless of the outcome to the F-16 sale, Taiwan's premier aerospace company is looking forward to a busy schedule in the coming years

State-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC, 漢翔航空) is facing promising prospects for the coming years, with an advanced trainer program in the works and the likelihood of a major role in a possible F-16A/B upgrade project.

One of the main projects AIDC is working on is a new advanced and completely indigenous trainer, Mike Lee (李適彰), secretary-general of the National Defense Industrial Association of Sino (中華國防工業發展協會), told the Taipei Times on the sidelines of the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition yesterday.

The firm has been working on a XAT-5 prototype, a twin-engine trainer that, according to some industry analysts, could be based on the Indigenous Defense Fighter’s (IDF) airframe.

Although he would not provide a time frame and said the air force had yet to green-light a specific model, Lee, who also serves as a special assistant to AIDC chairman Jason Liu (劉介岑), said the next few years would be the perfect time to introduce a new trainer to replace the twin-engine AT-3 — also manufactured by AIDC — that entered service in 1984.

Turning to the mid-life upgrade of Taiwan’s 130 F-CK-1A/B “Ching Kuo” IDFs, Lee said work on the first 71 aircraft was continuing and provided the air force had the budget, a second-phase upgrade, which would complete the remainder of the fleet, could be launched at some point. The first phase of the program has delivered six upgraded aircraft so far.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here with updates on a possible AIDC role for the F-16A/B upgrades and F-16C/Ds, as well as the possible development of a fifth-generation fighter and the IDF-II “goshawk.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

AESA radar upgrade for F-16s in doubt

Although a decision by Washington not to sell Taiwan F-16C/Ds would make the release of the AESA radar more likely, in the current political environment, even that cannot be taken for granted

As Taiwan awaits Washington’s decision on whether it will sell the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D aircraft Taipei has been seeking since 2007, rumors are now emerging that Taipei’s request for preferred radar system for an upgrade program for its ageing F-16A/Bs might also be encountering difficulties.

The US government is scheduled to announce on Oct. 1 — national day in the People’s Republic of China — whether it will proceed with the sale of 66 F-16C/Ds to Taiwan or limit itself to a US$4.5 billion upgrade for Taiwan’s 144 F-16A/Bs acquired in the early 1990s.

Taiwan does not regard the upgrades as an alternative to the F-16C/Ds and maintains that the two options must be exercised to ensure a balance of air power in the Taiwan Strait.

In addition to new electronic warfare systems, radio, engines and missiles, one key component of the upgrade would be the acquisition of advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a “drop in” modular system regarded as an ideal option to give aging fighter fleets the world over a second life, especially as countries are becoming increasingly reluctant to acquire the problem-plagued F-35.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with a dispatch from the Taipei Aerospace & Defense Technology Exhibition 2011. This article is based on interviews with Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

Update: I was informed by a knowledgeable source at TADTE today that Northrop Grumman’s SABR, one of the two AESA options for Taiwan’s F-16s, might not qualify as some of its components (reportedly antenna systems) have not been cleared for export. This would leave only Raytheon’s RACR, or, should the AESA deal not be approved, some version of a mechanically scanned array radar, also produced by Northrop Grumman.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taiwan sends not-so-subtle signal on China’s carrier

CSIST and MND officials were all winks when asked to explain the unusual display, and the fact that the top research center falls under the Ministry of National Defense means it was no accident

In a blunt departure from tradition, the military yesterday displayed a model Hsiung Feng (“Brave Wind”) III (HF-3, 雄風三) anti-ship missile with, as a backdrop, a large picture of a burning aircraft carrier that bore a striking resemblance to China’s retrofitted Varyag, which embarked on its maiden voyage earlier in the day.

The booth, set at a prominent location at the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition (TADTE), which opens today, was the center of attention of reporters who were given a chance to take a look around during a pre-show visit.


While the HF-3 had been on display at previous shows, this was the first time it was shown in a context that prominently identified its intended target. Although no flag or ensign could be seen on the computer-generated rendition of the aircraft carrier and accompanying fleet, the “ski jump” ramp and general outlook were oddly similar to the Varyag China acquired from Ukraine in 1998.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. My take for JDW appears here (subscription required)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Rooting out injustice

What we need is development with a heart, or a road to modernity minus the bulldozers and police contingents

Hardly a week goes by nowadays without farmers, environmentalists, unions and rights activists petitioning the central government over issues of corporate predation upon the land and the individual. While every instance could be looked upon as isolated and unrelated, their frequency in the past two years means that one cannot help but see a trend.

It would be easy to blame President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration for all the ills that have befallen the farmers who toil this land or the inhabitants of areas that are to be destroyed to make room for industrial projects. However, the problem is a more fundamental one, one that has deeper roots than the policies of a single administration. The answers and solutions, if ever we find them, will only emerge when people and organizations that purport to fight for freedom and justice in Taiwan themselves stop exploiting those who work for them.

Sometimes this hits so close to home that we don’t even see it.

My editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Taiwan faces non-democratic choices

Democracy should be about the art of the possible, a quest for the best possible outcome, and not solely a mechanism by which to choose the least bad option

One should always be wary of specialists who, from the cushioned comfort of their distant armchairs, make grand telescopic pronouncements about what it is that other countries “want.” Sadly for Taiwan, there is no shortage of such individuals who pretend to know what Taiwanese want.

Without the benefit of being in situ and really getting to know Taiwanese, their dreams, fears and all, it is easy for foreign analysts to personalize policy and to substitute public will for government rhetoric, especially under an administration in Taipei that has left little room for dissenting opinion.

Never — at least not since Taiwan was a nominal democracy — has the falseness of the assumption that a government speaks for its people been so markedly obvious than since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came into office in May 2008. And yet, commenting recently on signs that Taiwan and China were moving toward some type of convergence, esteemed academics, people like Robert Sutter of George Washington University, will confidently tell others that “If Taiwan says ‘This is what we want,’” then the US had no right to object.

What is sorely missing from such facile observations is a refinement of what is meant by “Taiwan” and whether the individuals who purport to speak in its name truly reflect public will.

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Beware of the Chinese flu (or Ma Jian as a symbol of the present)

There is no need, nor is it desirable, for Taiwan to rush into rapprochement with China. It can afford to wait — and current trends in China make such patience absolutely imperative

The lone figure of exiled Chinese author Ma Jian (馬建) being denied entry into his homeland last week should be enough to remind candidates in January’s presidential election of the need to approach China with the utmost caution.

The London-based Ma, whose application to enter China via Hong Kong on July 23 was turned down without explanation from Chinese officials, had previously returned home on several occasions since leaving in 1986. That he would be denied entry at a time when China is, by most accounts, seemingly in the ascendant, is a testimony to the uncertainty that haunts the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) amid domestic turbulence and an upcoming leadership transition.

Needless to say, a party that had full confidence in its ability to rule would not be preoccupied with the arrival of an author, however critical of the regime, on a mission to buy books in Shenzhen before returning to London.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.