The Ministry of National Defense yesterday released satellite photos of Chinese military to show that the PRC's military is training intensively for an attack on Taiwan, in a bid to strengthen public support for an arms procurement plan that is currently stalled in the Legislature.
Showing photos taken of various military bases in both inland and coastal provinces of China, MND spokesman Liu Chih-chien emphasized that China's military power had grown and posed an increasing threat to Taiwan.
Of particular concern, the MND examined a military base set up on Dahuo Island in the southern province of Guangdong in September 2004 that bore an uncanny resemblance to the air force base on Kinmen, a Taiwan-held island just some ten kilometers offshore from China's Fujian Province.
The photos of Dahuo Island taken at that time showed an airport with oil tanks and mock-ups of two U.S.-built F16 fighter jets, which Taiwan's military has, but China's doesn't, said Liu.
Moreover, a picture of the same island weeks later showed the dummy planes and one oil tank destroyed. Liu said China had fired missiles at the targets on Dahuo but had missed the second oil tank.
In the latest photo of Dahuo taken in November 2005, large-sized shell craters were identified on airplane runways at the base.
"These shell craters suggest the Chinese military has obtained high-accuracy weapons that are capable of taking out Taiwanese military airports," said an unidentified military intelligence analyst from the MND.
The military also voiced concern over China's preparation to sail aircraft carriers. A photo of the Dalian military seaport in Liaoning Province showed an aircraft carrier that the MND said Beijing had bought from Russia and was currently renovating. The MND alleged that the Chinese military was using the ship to train aircraft carrier crews.
Liu noted that although China has claimed the vessel, Vayag, was purchased for tourism purposes, the photos revealed the expansion of China's long-range hitting power. Should China activate a fleet of aircraft carriers, it would possess the ability to fire at eastern Taiwan from the East China Sea at a distance beyond the observation range of Taiwan's surveillance aircraft.
The MND also displayed shots of strategic submarines berthed at Liaoning's Hulu Island as well as those in the Chinese naval fleets stationed in the East and South China Seas. Most of the submarines were armed with missiles.
MND officials pointed out that these submarines would be able to seal off Taiwan military ports such as the Kaohsiung and Keelung Harbors, "which is why we stress the importance of submarine detection (in the arms procurement package)," they added.
National Defense Minister Lee Jye (李傑) reiterated the significance of the multibillion-dollar defensive arms purchase shortly after the briefing, and refuted a statement by an opposition Kuomintang legislator that the procurement disguised a scheme to attack China.
Lee described current national defense policy as based on "precautionary resistance" founded on "cautious combat." The goal, Lee said, was to deter a war with a powerful combat force would make Beijing hesitant to take reckless action, such as trying to conquer Taiwan militarily.
Lee also expressed his disapproval of replacing the three major weapons systems proposed in the package with mobile helicopters, strategic missiles, and quick-drying reinforced concrete as critics have suggested, saying the choice of weapons were finalized by military specialists from the defense ministries of both Taiwan and the United States.
"We're racing against time. If Taiwan does not buy the weapons now, we will regret it in the future," said Lee, urging the Legislature to put the bill on the agenda for review when it begins its next session in February.
Opposition lawmakers have repeatedly blocked the arms package since July 2004, even though the total cost has been scaled back from US$19 billion to the present US$15 billion.
The legislators contend that the arms purchase would be illegal because a referendum held on strengthening anti-missile defense systems in 2004 failed, and also that Taiwan cannot afford it.
The latest version of the arms bill calls for the purchase of six PAC-III Patriot anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-electric submarines, and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft from the U.S.