Sunday, April 29, 2012

Useful toe treading by Taiwan?

Aerial view of Taiping, with airstrip clearly visible
If handled properly, overlapping claims in the South China Sea could give Taiwan an opportunity to join multilateral regional organizations 

In a recent article in the Web-based journal of international affairs The Diplomat, Cain Nunns makes some interesting observations about the harm that Taipei’s claim to the South China Sea is causing to its already fragile diplomatic relations. 

To briefly summarize his argument, the claim that the entire South China Sea belongs to the Republic of China (ROC) — made, according to Nunns’ count, nine times by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration over the past 18 months — is a preposterous attachment to the ROC Constitution of 1947, which came into force before Chinese Communist Party forces had the chance to kick Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) across the Taiwan Strait. 

Nunns argues that, in addition to needlessly alienating regional claimants at a time when Taipei can ill afford to do so, the claims are identical to those made by Beijing, an overlapping phenomenon that could be part of Ma’s efforts to blur the lines between Taiwan and China under “one China.”

Former president Chen visits Taiping
Valid though such points may be, they fail to account for the fact that when in power from 2000 until 2008, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) maintained the claims to the contested series of islands in the South China Sea. 

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

Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘Carrier killer’ program goes ahead

A computer rendition of the corvette provided by MND
Between seven and 11 500-tonne Swift Sea stealth corvettes, each equipped with eight anti-ship cruise missiles, are to be built by 2014 

Despite hitting a snag in a recent bidding process, the navy is proceeding with the development of a stealth 500-tonne fast attack missile boat that is already being hailed as Taiwan’s “carrier killer.” 

Plans for the indigenous development of the 500-tonne corvette were first made public in 2009. In April the following year, Deputy Minister of National Defense Lin Yu-pao (林於豹) told the legislature that design work as part of the Hsun Hai (迅海, “Swift Sea”) program was completed and that bidding would be held this year. The legislature last year passed a NT$24.98 billion (US$853.4 million) budget to build between seven and 11 corvettes, with delivery scheduled for 2014. The boats are reportedly expected to remain in service for 25 years.

China's Houbei-class Type 022
The corvettes will come equipped with eight Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) and Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles, as well as a 76mm rapid-fire bow gun. The catamaran-style design, reports said, may have been inspired by the 220-tonne Houbei-class Type 022 catamaran recently deployed by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). 

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. James Holmes of the US Naval War College comments on this development in The Diplomat.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Where’s the sense of national pride?

President Ma's inauguration, May 20, 2008
Cutting costs is one thing. Slashing budgets on symbols of national pride, while spending billions on celebrations for the ROC centennial, is something else 

With the much-vaunted Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) evidently failing to deliver on the government’s promise to improve the economy, and with inflationary concerns on the rise, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has decided to reduce costs. This makes sense, but there is a problem: These cuts are targeting the key symbols of nationhood. 

Nearly four years into Ma’s first term and less than a month before he embarks on his second, the state of Taiwan’s economy is rather underwhelming — especially for an administration that never misses an opportunity to accuse its predecessor of mishandling that very sector. The TAIEX is tumbling, salaries are stagnant, exports (even to China) are down and GDP growth has been sliced so often it might as well be salami. 

The only thing that has gone up during that period is the cost of living, a trend that is about to be exacerbated by major hikes in energy prices. 

As a responsible government that cares for the welfare of its people, the Ma administration has announced that the May 20 presidential inauguration ceremonies will cost no more than NT$6 million (US$200,000), 85 percent less than the cost of the inauguration in 2008 and 91 percent less than former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) inauguration in 2004. Among other things, a fireworks display and a party will be canceled, leaving pretty much just a banquet. 

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The dragon wants out of the bottle

The pattern of Chinese flights around the waters near Okinawa indicates greater efforts at intelligence collection 

Up until recently China remained a predominantly continental entity, with a military that reflected that historical predisposition. As China’s national power continues to grow, so have its ambitions to expand, and this means becoming a seafaring nation. This, of course, is bound to bring it in proximity to other countries in the Asia Pacific. In recent months, the tensions that inhere from this expansion have become all the more prominent, with Chinese vessels clashing with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, over which Beijing claims sovereignty in its entirety.

Earlier this year, Beijing was also turning the screw on Seoul over waters surrounding the disputed Ieo Island off South Korea. Now Japan’s Defense Ministry this week released its data on the number of times it had to scramble aircraft in response to foreign approaches to its airspace in 2011.

 In all, Air Self-Defense Force fighter aircraft were scrambled 156 times in response to Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace last year, a record high for China since the Defense Ministry started releasing such data by country in 2001, Kyodo news reported on Wednesday.

Japanese military aircraft made sorties on 425 occasions as a precaution against approaching foreign aircraft in the year to March 31, the first time in 20 years that the number exceeded 400, the ministry said, adding that this was evidence, in part, of increasing military activity by China in the East China Sea. (By country, the greatest number of operations targeted Russian airplanes at 247 times, which was down 17 from the previous year.)

Japan’s SDF also said that flight patterns by Chinese aircraft had diversified, with intelligence-gathering planes (including the four-engine turboprop Y-8 maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft, pictured above) standing out. A number of such flights occurred close to Okinawa, which serves as a major base for US forces that would likely be involved in a Taiwan contingency. As China gathers intelligence on facilities there and elsewhere, it will be in a better position, should it come to that, to target bases there preemptively — probably using MRBMs — before launching an attack against Taiwan.

New US intelligence agency to place emphasis on China

The Defense Clandestine Service has been tasked with focusing on ‘national intelligence’ and major ‘ascendant powers’ 

US intelligence is following suit on US President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia with the creation of a new clandestine intelligence service that is set to put greater emphasis on Asia — and China in particular. 

Following a plan approved last week by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the new Defense Clandestine Service will cement cooperation between existing case officers from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) already operating outside war zones and those from the CIA, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The new service, which is being touted as a “realignment” of human intelligence efforts, will grow “from several hundred to several more hundred” agents in the coming years as personnel and funding are redirected from current assignments, predominantly Iraq and Afghanistan, to Asia. 

Like CIA agents, DIA officers traditionally work out of US embassies and missions worldwide, either as declared military attaches or undercover. A number of DIA agents are known to operate in Taiwan. 

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

USAF long-range exercise may have had China in mind

A nation-wide bombing exercise involving aircraft based in Japan highlighted the US Air Force’s ability to operate in a large anti-access target area 

A long-range strike exercise held by the US Strategic Command earlier this month may have been intended as a practice run for a future contingency involving China, military analysts have said. 

The exercise, codenamed Operation Chimichanga, was held at the US military’s Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex near Eilson Air Force Base, Alaska, and involved a variety of combat aircraft and bombers, including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, B-1 bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS) and KC-135 Stratotankers air-refueling aircraft. US Air Force F-16s from Misawa Air Base in northern Japan also took part. 

The exercise involved launches of a combination of real and computer-simulated weapons at mock targets scattered across the Joint Pacific Alaska Range. 

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Navigating the pivot

Renewed US leadership in the region can benefit everybody, including China

Although the claim that the US had abandoned Asia never fully held up to scrutiny, in recent months the Obama administration has repeatedly signaled its new commitment to the region, a decision that will not only have direct implications for China, but also for Washington's allies.

The Strategic Vision journal, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies at Taiwan's National Defense University, invited me to share my views on what the so-called US pivot could mean for the future of the region. The entire journal can be accessed here, with my article starting on page 9.

US coast guard, navy help rescue Taiwanese vessel

A volunteer global network whose origins can be traced back to the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago also took part in the operation
A P-3 “Orion” marine patrol aircraft from a US patrol squadron, as well as the US Coast Guard, took part in the rescue at sea of 10 Taiwanese fishermen on Saturday, 1,120km off the west coast of Guam.
The Honolulu-based Coast Guard District 14 - Sector Guam received an alert from an emergency position-indicating radio beacon from the Taiwanese fishing vessel Hsin Man Chun at about 4:30pm.
After a request for assistance from the US Coast Guard, a P-3 aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 1 “Screaming Eagles” based at Naval Air Facility Misawa in Japan, located 10 crewmembers from the fishing vessel, which had caught fire.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here .

Friday, April 20, 2012

Beijing’s convenient bad neighbor

As long as conflict in the Korean Peninsula does not devolve into war, North Korea will remain a useful tool for Beijing to distract its adversaries

As the UN launches an investigation into the possibility that China broke international sanctions against North Korea by providing it with banned technology, the global community should think again about the role Beijing has played as a negotiator in disarmament talks with Pyongyang over the years.

Beijing denies it provided North Korea with the 16-wheel transporter- erector- launcher (TEL) vehicle, pictured at a military parade on April 15, that made Beijing, rather than Pyongyang, the main focus of the international community this week. Providing a TEL — a vehicle used to transport and launch ballistic missiles — to North Korea would be in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, adopted in 2009, which prohibits the supply to North Korea of “any arms or related materiel, or providing financial transactions, technical training, services or assistance related to such arms.”

Military experts who analyzed the images claim the TEL seen at the parade bore strikingly similar characteristics to a TEL design by the 9th Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Anti-airborne drill at Hsinchu Air Force Base

A few observations on the drill at Hsinchu AFB, on day four of the 28th annual Han Kuang series of military exercises

I got up at 4:30am on Thursday to attend an anti-airborne drill at Hsinchu Air Force Base on day four of the weeklong 28th Han Kuang military exercises. While, as had already been established, the exercise did not involve live fire, it nevertheless provided some occasional eye candy.

In all, 1,584 personnel were mobilized from the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing, special operations forces, a chemical group, an engineering group, a signals group and armored cavalry units. Thirty-four types of weapons were involved, including Mirage-2000s, C-130s, AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, OH-58D surveillance helicopters, Antelope air defense systems (with Tien Chien I surface-to-air missiles), M-41D tanks and V-150 APCs.

In the opening salvo, more than 200 paratroopers from Army Special Operations Command — the main component of OPFOR (Red Team) — jumped from seven C-130s and took positions in preparation for taking over Hsinchu AFB. In response, the 499th Tactical Fighter Wing led the Blue Team and deployed anti-airborne defenses. Across the theater of operations, orders were relayed to air, ground and sea forces, including the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade, artillery and military police units, as they struck at OPFOR upon landing.

With the 862nd Special Warfare Brigade providing cover fire from various ground and elevated positions, the Special Air Service under the Aviation and Special Warfare Command, moved in to occupy key positions around the base. The Red Team also came under attack from AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters, while a pair of OH-58D conducted surveillance. Blue Team mopped up the landing zone with eight M-41Ds and two V-150s.

Giving Taiwan the deterrent it needs

High-profile US arms sales to Taiwan may have political value, but the key to ensuring stability in the Taiwan Strait lies in allowing Taiwan to develop its missile arsenal

Much has been made in recent months of the United States’ so-called “pivot” to Asia, which, according to some, could represent the beginning of a new era of engagement in the Asia-Pacific amid China’s rise.

However, one state that should be part of Washington’s strategy has been conspicuous by the absence of any reference to a possible role for it in that emerging multilateral architecture. That is Taiwan. The lack of mention of the longstanding U.S. ally in the region is no accident; rather, it’s a calculated effort on Washington’s part to avoid making its “return” to Asia too controversial in Beijing, which already regards the pivot as the latest in a long list of exercises in containment.

Given this, it’s unlikely that Taiwan, however eloquently Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao may have argued the benefits in a recent article, will be made a partner as an ad hoc partner in any emerging AirSea Battle concept spearheaded by the U.S.

My op-ed, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

Taiwan faces balance of naval power crisis

In the next few years, the Taiwanese navy could be down to 18 frigates/destroyers in the 3,000-plus tonnage category, from 43 during the 1996 Missile Crisis

A backlog of costly arms acquisitions by Taiwan could be forcing the navy to cut back on requests for frigates from the US, which threatens to exacerbate the widening tonnage gap in the Taiwan Strait as the nation decommissions ageing vessels.

Citing a Taiwanese defense industry source, Defense News said in a report published this week that the navy could request two — rather than four, as initially planned — decommissioned long-hull Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates as excess defense articles (EDA) from the US.

The article said the plan to acquire the four frigates was cancelled late last year because of cost and technical considerations, adding that the military was struggling to pay for roughly US$18 billion in weapons released by the US in the past four years.

Although China Shipbuilding Corp (中船) is capable of building Perry-class frigates — it has built eight so far, known locally as Cheng Kung-class — the source told Defense News that acquisitions from the US would be the quickest and least costly way to add the much-needed vessels to the navy. Building them would cost upwards of US$2 billion, the source said, much higher than the “near-scrap” price under EDA, even when refurbishment and upgrade costs are added.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two more Taiwanese officials indicted for spying

An ex-NSB officer and a former psychological warfare specialist were caught trying to pass sensitive information to Chinese intelligence

Revelations of recruitment of Taiwanese by Chinese intelligence seem to have settled into a comfortable frequency, with arrests or indictments being made on an almost monthly basis now.

A little more than a month after an Air Force captain was caught passing on classified information about Taiwan’s air defense systems to China via his uncle — a businessman in China — two former intelligence officers were charged on Monday and indicted today on charges of collecting sensitive information for China.

According to the indictment, Tsai Kuo-bin (蔡國賓), 65, a former captain at the National Security Bureau (NSB), had spied for China for several years, and visited China on a number of occasions between 2007 and 2010. He is suspected of trying to acquire, and to have delivered, information on Taiwanese intelligence and Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB) personnel, domestic politics, cross-strait relations, and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). China is said to have paid Tsai a total sum of NT$620,000 (US$20,000) for his efforts. 

According to the charges, Tsai was recruited by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Fujian Province. At the time of his retirement in 1994, Tsai was head of a unit at the NSB gathering cultural and educational intelligence on China.

Prosecutors said Tsai also recruited the 63-year-old Wang Wei-ya (王維亞), a former officer at the Ministry of National Defense’s General Political Warfare Department, and asked him to acquire a book — 情報生涯30年 — containing classified information about 30 years of Taiwanese intelligence, which was banned before it could be published. Interestingly, after retiring from the military in 1994, Wang, by then a major, worked at the KMT Mainland Affairs Department, where he focused on psychological warfare and intelligence-gathering until 2006.

Tsai and Wang, who were arrested in September last year, face a maximum jail term of five years.

Tibetan health minister met Chiu at DOH, discussed cooperation

A Taiwanese official says the DOH minister greeted Tsering in passing. Tibetans report the two spent a while discussing healthcare cooperation between Taiwan and Dharamsala 

The health minister for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, visited Taiwan last week to discuss cooperation on health with his Taiwanese counterparts — including Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達).

Contact between Taiwanese officials and Tibetan representatives is always a sensitive matter given Beijing’s hardline position on Tibet and government-to-government contacts by Taiwanese officials.

The visit also occurred amid efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to improve relations with Beijing.

According to the Tibetan Central Administration (TCA) Web site, Tibetan Health Kalon (minister) Tsering Wangchuk visited Taiwan last week and met top officials at the department, the Bureau of International Cooperation and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as hospitals, to garner support for assistance in the healthcare system for the exiled Tibetan community.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2012

TAO’s Wang Yi in Washington for talks on Taiwan

Wang and US officials did not discuss the recent proposal by former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung of a 'one country, two areas' framework, but the former told academics the concept was a step in the right direction

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on Thursday reaffirmed Washington’s adherence to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) during a meeting with Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Wang Yi (王毅).

Wang, who is in the US on a regular visit, also met senior White House officials, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, members of Congress and academics, including former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Bush and Kenneth Lieberthal from the Brookings Institution, and Alan Romberg of the Stimson Center.

During his meeting with Burns, Wang said he hoped the US would continue to play an active role in the process of relations across the Taiwan Strait, adding that “positive developments” in the strait could help Sino-US relations develop along the lines of mutual trust rather than friction.

China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency made no mention of Burns’ reaffirming Washington’s adherence to the TRA in its coverage of his talks with Wang.

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Amateur hour on national security

Yet more signs that Ma administration officials underestimate, or are not taking seriously enough, the threat posed by Chinese espionage

The revelation this week that Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), the former head of the nation’s representative office in Kansas City, Missouri, hired a Chinese national as a housekeeper late last year after her second Philippine maid had fled is as sad as it is worrying. What it is not, though, is surprising, given how lax this administration has become on national security.

As if the alleged mistreatment of two housemaids, which sullied the nation’s image abroad, were not enough, Liu also broke Ministry of Foreign Affairs regulations by hiring Xie Dengfeng (謝登鳳), a Chinese national, and concealing Xie’s identity from the ministry. Such actions could have endangered national security.

In her defense, the embattled Liu says she was unaware of the ministry regulations on hiring Chinese nationals. It is hard to imagine which possibility is worse — that she is lying, or that she was indeed unaware of the rules, which raises serious questions about internal security and counterintelligence at the ministry.

As any Taiwanese official should know, the Chinese intelligence apparatus is monitoring Taiwanese diplomatic missions abroad, and there is no reason to believe that the office in Kansas was any different.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Online photos point to PRC deployment of DF-16 missiles

What appears to be a new model of TEL could provide confirmation that China’s new medium-range ballistic missile has been deployed

Images of mobile launchers posted on the Internet last week could provide confirmation of the long-suspected deployment of the Dongfeng 16 (DF-16), China’s most recent medium-range ballistic missile.

The pictures, which were taken at an undisclosed location, showed a pair of 5x5 wheeled transport erector launcher (TEL) vehicles surmounted by wide, half-oval-shaped covers for the missile ramp, driving in an urban area. In three of the pictures seen by the Taipei Times, street signs had been digitally blurred out.

News of a potential new class of Dongfeng missile emerged in March last year when National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai De-sheng (蔡得勝) told the legislature that the Chinese military had completed testing the DF-16 and begun its deployment. The revelation caught the intelligence community by surprise and sparked debate on whether China had in fact developed a new class of missile or that what Tsai was referring to was simply an extended-range variant of the DF-15 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).

Analysts said at the time that the DF-16 could have maneuverable capability to counter air-defense systems, such as Taiwan’s PAC-3s, with the higher re-entry speed associated with its higher ascent making it more difficult to intercept.

The TELs seen in the images that came out last week have larger missile ramp covers, which would indicate the presence of a missile larger than the DF-15 (pictured left, note the 4x4 wheel chassis). DF-11/15s comprise the majority of the missiles aimed at Taiwan.

It is also slightly different from the DF-21C MRBM (note the length of the missile, which extends all the way to the top of the driver's cabin, as well as a gap in the side panels between the third and fourth wheels).

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. And here for Jane's Defence Weekly, with lots more fun technical stuff (subscription required).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

MND mum on HF-3 anti-ship missile variant

The ministry does not comment on weapons programs, but it is well known that the military has been trying to extend the range of the missile for some time

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday refused to comment on a report in US-based Defense News the previous day that claimed that Taiwan was developing a new type of anti-ship cruise missile.

In a report titled “Taiwan Anti-Ship Missile Plan Place China’s Navy in Cross Hairs,” Defense News said that an unnamed Taiwanese defense industry source had informed it that the Taiwanese military was planning to build an extended-range anti-ship missile, possibly a variant of the Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) “Brave Wind” surface-to-surface missile (pictured above, right, with HF-2 next to it).

Once developed, the military would deploy the new missile on the eastern side of Taiwan and direct it across the Taiwan Strait at the Chinese coast, it said.

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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

China makes steady progress in ‘smart’ ammunitions development

Terminal-sensing projectiles are regarded as an especially promising weapon to attack the roof section of vehicles such as tanks and armored personnel carriers

The Chinese military is making steady progress in the development of smart ammunition technology, the PLA Daily reported yesterday, which could prove especially threatening to Taiwan’s armored vehicles.

The Baicheng Weapon Test Center announced on Friday that it had made “a significant breakthrough” in the development of technology known as terminal sensing ammunition, adding that the People’s Liberation Army had completed the theoretical work, including design, analysis, simulation, tests and evaluation of the new projectile.

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

Chinese navy eyes major expansion

The Chinese navy is expected to see a major transformation over the next decade

China is not satisfied with a single refurbished aircraft carrier and has plans to build two conventional and one nuclear-powered aircraft carriers by 2020, as well as 200 more vessels, a Russian military analysts’ Web site says.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will also continue developing its submarine and missile forces, with the principal objective of breaking out of the first island chain, the Russian Military Review said.

In the view of Chinese strategists, the first island chain, an invisible line that extends from the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the Philippines into the South China Sea, has kept China bottled in and prevents it from assuming its role as a major regional power.

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

Friday, April 06, 2012

Satellite images suggest changes at Chinese missile base

Despite ‘warming ties’ between Taiwan and China, the PLA is proceeding with the modernization of its ballistic missile forces targeting the island

Recent satellite images of a short-range missile base in China's Fujian province show signs of possible modernization efforts after an expected change in command structure.

Citing unnamed military sources, in late March US media said the images of Xianyou, in eastern Fujian, indicated that construction of a new missile base was nearly finished and that the People's Liberation Army had deployed its latest short-range missile there. However, sources have told IHS Jane's that the activity was more likely modernization of an existing ballistic missile brigade for ground support units, with DF-11As replacing older and shorter-range DF-11s and the brigade falling under control of the Second Artillery Corps.

My article, published on April 5 in Jane's Defence Weekly, can be accessed here (subscription required). My take for the Taipei Times, published on April 6, is here.

A government of half-truths

The problem with the Ma Ying-jeou administration’s fantasy world is that it can only work for so long

One should be wary of governments that tell the public that everything is fine and under control all the time. And yet, this is exactly the dish President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been serving the public since it came into office in 2008.

Just as with ordinary human beings, people who claim to be right all the time, or who deny even the possibility that something may have gone wrong, reveal one of two things about themselves: Either they’re lying, or they have lost touch with reality. It’s hard to tell which is worse, but the one thing that’s certain is that danger cannot but lurk far behind.

On almost every controversy — the poor handling of the Typhoon Morakot incident, bird flu outbreaks, a dangerous China policy, the theft by the state of private property, delays in the implementation of the second-generation national health insurance program, delays in phasing out conscription in the armed forces, disproportionate police deployments, the US beef flap and recent frictions with Singapore and Sao Tome and Principe to name a few — the Ma government has shot back at critics by saying that everything is fine and that the public should have faith in its ability to manage. The closest it has come to admitting deficiencies in governance was to slap low to mid-level government officials on the wrist, a reprimand that is usually followed by the official being moved to another branch of government or the warm embrace of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

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

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Ex-employee at TFD faces deportation

A US citizen’s life in Taiwan turned into a legal nightmare after government agencies said he had worked illegally for the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy for years

A foreign national and single father to a Taiwanese son is facing deportation for allegedly working illegally for the government-linked Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) in a case that raises questions over how the government handled the case.

The problems for Ben Hlavaty, a US citizen, began when he and his Taiwanese spouse divorced in May 2008. Until then, Hlavaty had an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) through his marriage and did not need a work permit to work at the TFD, his employer since December 2007, when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power.

Aware that following his divorce his ARC would only be valid until Oct. 25 that year, Hlavaty informed his employer that if they wished him to continue working for them, TFD would have to help him apply for a work permit. The foundation subsequently contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), which founded the TFD in 2002, and asked it to assist Hlavaty.

For a while, it looked like Hlavaty would be able to continue working in Taiwan and provide for his son. Then there was a change in government in 2008, and nothing would ever be the same...

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

Sunday, April 01, 2012

China, Russia to hold naval drills

Alliances in the Asia-Pacific are taking shape, and it looks like a new Cold War might be upon us

The Chinese and Russian navies will conduct joint exercises in April and May, China's defence ministry announced in a regular press briefing on 29 March.

Military spokesman Yang Yujun did not specify the size of the exercises, which are to be held in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.

My article, published on Friday in Jane's Defence Weekly, continues here (subscription required). My article on the same subject in the Taipei Times today can be accessed here.