The Latest Attempt to Influence Taiwanese Elections
In March, 2004, Chen Shui-ban was elected President of Taiwan for a second four-year term. His Democratic Progressive Party is seen to be much more in favor of formally declared independence from China by most observers. On December 11th, Taiwan will hold legislative elections, and Chen's party will attempt to capture a majority for the first time ever. (See background on this here) The CIA World Factbook notes:
note: debate on Taiwan independence has become acceptable within the mainstream of domestic politics on Taiwan; political liberalization and the increased representation of opposition parties in Taiwan's legislature have opened public debate on the island's national identity; a broad popular consensus has developed that Taiwan currently enjoys de facto independence and - whatever the ultimate outcome regarding reunification or independence - that Taiwan's people must have the deciding voice; advocates of Taiwan independence oppose the stand that the island will eventually unify with mainland China; goals of the Taiwan independence movement include establishing a sovereign nation on Taiwan and entering the UN;As most know, Taiwan has the potential to be quite a flashpoint for conflict. Many players have a stake in the outcome of the elections, and are making their moves . . . The World Economy Global business wants stability in cross-straits relations. Taiwan is quite a player in world trade, especially in semiconductors. Standard and Poor's cut Taiwan's credit rating to AA-/A-1 on Tuesday, and noted the rise in tensions as a principal reason. The new rating reflects a negative outlook for the island. Could the rating cut have an influence on the island's leadership? Seems it could break two ways: they might think that toning down their independence talk would be better for stability. Or they might think, well, if we're damned if we do and damned if we don't, we might as well go ahead and suffer the consequences. A rating cut by S&P seems like it would have little effect on the average voter though -- but who knows? Macroeconomic news is followed differently in other countries. US voters would sleep right through a rating cut, but perhaps it's different in Taiwan . . . The United States The US is pursuing two tracks: it is working very hard to convince the Taiwanese not to declare independence and trying to convince China that it still believes in one China. And it is also making preparations to defend Taiwan if necessary -- and letting those preparations be known. [Quick tangent: this is a truly interesting article, suggesting, among other things, that any China-Taiwan conflict in which the US participated would invariably incur the participation of South Korea -- through its defense treaty with the US -- and North Korea, through similar arrangements with China. Japan of course also has a treaty with the US.] The US has also sold Taiwan a lot of weapons. China The People's Republic of China most certainly does not want Chen's party to win. China has also pledged to crush independence attempts on Taiwan [note the slant in that article from the Chinese press]. China has made attempts to influence every round of Taiwan's elections, the most memorable of which was 1996, when China launched missiles and military exercises, and the US dispatched two aircraft carriers in a show of force.* This round of elections is no different. The news on Friday that China's military has launched the first of a new class of ballistic missile submarines in what defense officials view as a major step forward in Beijing's strategic weapons program, is disturbing for many reasons, but the most interesting thing about it is the timing -- one week before Taiwan's elections. The story bears close scrutiny:
The new 094-class submarine was launched in late July and when fully operational in the next year or two will be the first submarine to carry the underwater-launched version of China's new DF-31 missile, according to defense officials. "When fully operational, it will represent a more modern, more capable missile platform," said one official familiar with reports of the new submarine. A second intelligence official said building submarines is a top priority of the Chinese, and the Type 094 will be "China's first truly intercontinental strategic nuclear delivery system." The new Type 094 was spotted by U.S. intelligence agencies at the Huludao shipyard, located on the coast of Bohai Bay, some 250 miles northwest of Beijing. The submarine is in the early stages of being outfitted and is not yet equipped with new JL-2 submarine-launched nuclear missiles.The important thing to ask is: How quiet is it? If it can be found and tracked by our subs, then we can kill it before it shoots -- but finding and tracking is always difficult, no matter how loud a sub is.
The launching of the new missile submarine appears ahead of schedule. A Pentagon report on Chinese military power made public in May stated that the new Chinese missile submarine would not be deployed until around 2010. A Defense Intelligence Agency report produced in 1999 and labeled "secret" stated that the new submarine is part of a program by China of "modernizing and expanding its missile force." "Mobile, solid-fuel missiles and a new ballistic missile submarine will improve the force's ability to survive a first strike," the report said, "while more launchers, on-board penetration aids, and possibly multiple warheads will improve its ability to penetrate missile defenses." The DIA report stated that China is expected to field one new ballistic missile submarine by 2020.Great. Another slam-dunk for our intelligence services.
In a related development, U.S. intelligence officials said the Chinese suffered a setback in their JL-2 missile program when a test flight of the JL-2 missile failed over the summer. The JL-2 missile program was delayed by the test failure but is continuing to be developed, the officials said. China conducted tests of the JL-2 in 2002 and last year.So the missile doesn't work yet, but the sub has been launched? It looks like this story is the result of investigating by Gertz, and not a news release by China. The sub was launched in July. And our intelligence agencies said in May that it wouldn't be around til 2010. Since it was launched, perhaps the Navy has been able to track it and this was actually no surprise to the US government . . . or maybe the Navy is now scrambling to figure out where it is . . . but it was "spotted by U.S. intelligence agencies at the Huludao shipyard, located on the coast of Bohai Bay, some 250 miles northwest of Beijing." Perhaps the Chinese chose to reveal it . . . but certainly not on the slim hope that Bill Gertz would publish the story by himself . . . no one else has picked up on this.
The new submarine will make it more difficult for the U.S. military to take part in a defense of Taiwan because of the threat of nuclear retaliation, he said.Bingo. There's more here than meets the eye -- is this careful strategerizing on the part of China? First, two weeks ago, they sent a sub into Japanese waters. Now the new sub story comes out on a Friday (yesterday) and then Saturday (today) Chinese diplomats are meeting with the US in DC.
The Pentagon has deployed a new missile defense system, but a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency has said the current interceptor system is designed to stop a long-range North Korean missile, but not an attack from Chinese or Russian missiles.That's just awesome.
A 1999 report by the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China stated that the new missile submarine will likely benefit from stolen U.S. nuclear warhead designs.Feels like a swift punch in the gut doesn't it?
The range of the JL-2 is estimated to be about 7,500 miles, enough "to strike targets throughout the United States," the report said. "Instead of venturing into the open ocean to attack the United States, the Type 094-class submarines could remain near [Chinese] waters, protected by the [People's Liberation Army,] Navy and Air Force," the report said. The new submarine will be a major improvement over China's current ballistic missile submarine known as the Xia, which is equipped with medium-range missiles. The current Xia submarine is considered so noisy to underwater detection gear that its chances of surviving attack submarine strikes in ocean waters are limited.Here again, we have the real question: how quiet is their new sub? If we're smart we've got a dozen LA class boats off the coast of their shipyard, listening to everything they hear and recording all of it . . . The December Atlantic Monthly carries a story about the possibility of the Chinese using a submarine-based blockade to break Taiwan's will and force reunification. This has been a theory for quite some time. The article has some points that don't ring quite true: that "America's sub-hunting capabilities have atrophied since the cold war" may be true, but the capabilities of our new opponent, China, are nowhere near those of our old one, the USSR. The number of subs required to break the blockade would be "vast and risky . . . especially if US forces are still stretched thin in the Middle East." The Adventures of Chester completely disagrees -- subs are capable of operating without their battle groups, and how many subs do we need to fight the insurgency in Iraq? We don't even need them for their Tomahawks over there. Finally, the Atlantic sums it up by recommending that the US withdraw its security guarantee for the island, but let Taiwan buy as many weapon as it wants. Perhaps this would work in the intermediate term to stabilize the straits, but it does nothing for us in a week or so. And after China and Taiwan have had a conflict, the US will find itself without much influence in either country's affairs . . . why give up your influence in a region where the major regional power is aggressive in improving its standing? Plus, it just doesn't strike me as something that Bush would do . . . he's too loyal for that. ------------------------------------------- Some stream of consciousness follow-up thoughts . . . When China regained Hong Kong, it increased its GDP overnight by 26%. If China suddenly owned Taiwan, it would increase its GDP by 8 or 9% -- still though this is why the Chinese goal is to take Taiwan without breaking it. They won't mount an amphibious invasion -- whether they can or not . . . While it seems disheartening that our missile shield won't stop Chinese missiles, don't worry. Also, though our intelligence agencies were wrong about the pace of development, others in government noticed. In 1998, the bipartisan U.S. Ballistic Missile Threat Commission voted unanimously that:
The threat to the US posed by these emerging capabilities is broader, more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported in estimates and reports by the intelligence community . . . The warning times the US can expect of new, threatening ballistic missile deployments are being reduced. Under some plausible scenarios -- including re-basing or transfer of operational missiles, sea and air-launched options, shortened development programs that might include testing in a third country, or some combination of these -- the US might well have little or no warning before operational deployment.The Chairman of that commission was Donald Rumsfeld. We've talked about world-class pattern-spotters before on this blog; we should all be thankful that this man is going to continue running the Pentagon. He works 16 hour days, then routinely bests his younger subordinates in squash games; he has no desk and instead stands up between two tables to work -- doesn't sit all day; when it gets late at work and he tires, he flips on patriotic music and lifts dumb-bells for a few minutes; during his free-time, while defending civilization, he managed to write a book about his wife, saying "people will write many books about me, but they won't know what a wonderful person she is"; he regularly charms the heck out of anyone he encounters at state events; his long-time friends say he has the energy of 5 successful people; oh! and he's 72 years old. One of my all-time favorites. [Much of the info here came from "Rumsfeld's War" by Rowan Scarborough. See link in sidebar.] . . . If China blockaded Taiwan would France help? In March, the French joined the Chinese military exercises meant to intimidate Taiwan's voters. France just takes the cake doesn't it . . . Why wouldn't Taiwan want to be part of China? Plenty of freedom in China right? Wrong. China's embrace of a liberal economy shouldn't be equated with an embrace of classic liberalism. Chester welcomes comments from former submariners or those living in Taiwan or China. I'd look for some good Taiwan blogs, but it's 3am and Mrs. Chester is going to kill me if I don't come to bed. *[Aside: Can you believe how uncluttered that 1996 story from cnn is? The web was young and less commercialized then . . .]