Taiwan Leader Calls for a Joint Missile Defense
Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Bill Gertz
TAIPEI, Taiwan - President Chen Shui-bian compares China's missile threats against the island to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and says the United States, Japan and Taiwan should jointly develop missile defenses.
"Recently there was a very famous American movie called `Thirteen Days,'" he said, referring to last year's historical drama about the Kennedy-era showdown between the Soviet Union and the United States. That crisis ended when the Soviet Union agreed to remove its missiles from Cuba.
"But for the 23 million Taiwanese people, our missile threat is not only a 13-day threat. Rather we have lived for a very long time under a missile threat on a daily basis," Mr. Chen said.
Asked about Taiwan's plans for missile defenses, Mr. Chen said increasing missile deployments by the communist Peoples Republic of China (PRC) are the reason the United States and Japan are conducting research and development on missile defense systems.
"Asia Pacific peace and stability is in Taiwan's interest; it is also the common interest of the United States and Japan," Mr. Chen said. "I believe that peace in the Taiwan Strait is key to the overall stability of the Asia Pacific region. So maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait and avoiding a PRC threat against Taiwan is something that the U.S., Japan and Taiwan must jointly deal with in a manner of division responsibilities and cooperation."
Taiwan's defense agencies are "actively studying and evaluating the possibility of taking part or investing in the [theater missile defense] project," he said. "But so far we don't have a conclusion" about whether the program will move ahead.
Mr. Chen was elected last year as Taiwan's first opposition political leader since 1949.
In an interview focusing on national security topics, Mr. Chen also said the United States and Taiwan should increase military cooperation and exchanges to secure peace and stability in Asia.
"The U.S. and Taiwan do not have official diplomatic relations," Mr. Chen said. "As such it would be difficult to achieve a military alliance. However, in terms of military exchange and cooperation there is still much more room for improvement. Currently, relations are much better than in the past and have made significant progress, but they can still be upgraded."
Mr. Chen said he was encouraged by the Bush administration's decision in May to sell advanced U.S. arms to the island. But he said hardware transfers are "only one part" of Taiwan's military buildup, which is needed to create a military balance with the mainland.
"What is more important are the personal exchanges and cooperation," he said. "The uplifting of battlefield management training capabilities, as well as joint training exercises between the different divisions of the military, are also important."
China's military budget has been increasing annually at "double-digit" rates since 1989, a rate far greater than its economic growth rate, he said. The economic boom has helped Beijing to add more resources to its "military expansion and missile deployment."
"The PRC threat is directed not only against Taiwan. It is at the same time also a threat to the United States and Japan," Mr. Chen said. China is opposing U.S. development of theater missile defenses [TMD] as well as natiional missile defenses [NMD] against long-range missiles, he said.
But Beijing's Communist leaders "never look to the source" of the problem, he said. "Why is there an issue of TMD and NMD? The key is that the PRC is increasing its missile deployment by 50 to 70 missiles a year at this growth rate, and it is a significant threat to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region. …