Thursday, July 28, 2011

Intrusion by PLA plane more than routine: analysts

It is unlikely that Beijing would carelessly violate the median line in the Taiwan Strait. A number of hypotheses help explain why it did

Although the Ministry of National Defense and some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators played down the significance of an incident involving two Chinese fighter aircraft in the Taiwan Strait late last month, analysts say the matter is more than simply routine.

Confirming on Monday media reports that one of two Chinese Sukhoi-27 (Su-27) fighter aircraft shadowing a US U-2 spy plane had crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait on June 29, ministry officials maintained this was an isolated incident and did not regard it as provocative.

The Chinese aircraft are believed to have been from the 40th Fighter Regiment, 14th Fighter Division at Nanchang-Xiangtang Air Base in Jiangxi Province.

Although the intrusion — reportedly the first since an April 1, 2001, mid-air collision between a US Navy EP-3 aircraft and a Chinese J-8 fighter — prompted the ministry to dispatch two F-16s to intercept the Chinese fighters, KMT legislators said Beijing would not seek to provoke Taiwan at a time when relations in the Taiwan Strait are “at their best in decades.”

KMT Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民) said the incident was the result of pilot error.

My analysis, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with comments by the US Department of Defense, PACOM, Roger Cliff and Gary Li. My take on the incident for JDW can be accessed here (subscription required).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou the misunderstood

The walls of contradiction that President Ma Ying-jeou has erected around his China policy are slowly closing in on him

Last week, for the fifth time in less than three years, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was “misquoted” by foreign media over matters pertaining to his cross-strait policy. Whether he gives his interviews in English or in Mandarin, the response from Ma’s office is always the same: Either the world doesn’t get it, or it is out to get Ma as part of some obscure multinational plot to discredit him.

Considering how much time he and his speechwriters have had to flesh out a comprehensive and intelligible cross-strait policy, it is hard to believe that Ma does not by now have clear formulations with which to explain his plan for dealing with Beijing. One would also assume, with a presidential election just around the corner, that Ma’s office would make every effort to ensure that reporters are able to reproduce their interviews with the president with clarity and accuracy. Besides, Japanese reporters, the latest victims in the streak of misquote accusations, have a reputation for being cautious about checking facts.

However, it could well be that our Janus-faced president has not one China policy, but two ever-shifting and occasionally overlapping policies.

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

DW News makes false claim on F-16 sale

The Chinese-language DW News service on Sunday claimed that US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers had “confirmed” that the US would only promote upgrades to Taiwan’s ageing 144 F-16A/Bs and turn down efforts by Taipei to procure 66 more advanced F-16C/Ds.

I have it on good authority that this claim derives solely from a misreading of a press release by the council last week, in which Hammond-Chambers said an announcement by Washington that it would announce on Oct. 1 whether it will proceed with the sale of the F-16C/Ds gave the impression that it would not move forward with the sale. Rather than providing confirmation, this was nothing more than Hammond-Chambers’ assessment of the agreement reached between US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John Cornyn.

DPP issues statement on South China Sea tensions

The DPP espouses a multilateral approach to resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. One wonders, however, if Taiwan, excluded as it is from ASEAN, would be able to participate in any talks

The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday called for a multilateral approach to the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea.

The DPP’s reiteration of its position that issues related to the South China Sea must be addressed through a multilateral framework came following a draft agreement on the guidelines for the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct between China and ASEAN earlier this month.

“Despite several calls from China for ‘cooperation between the two sides of the strait’ on the South China Sea issue, the DPP urges President Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] administration to take part in multilateral talks with all parties involved in order to serve Taiwan’s best interest and to preserve regional stability,” the statement said in English.

The statement said that when Ma served as Mainland Affairs Council deputy minister in the 1990s, he said that the two sides of the strait must set aside sovereignty differences and work together on the South China Sea issue while “dealing with outside parties in a unified way.”

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here, with an update on the Haijian 50 (海监50), the latest China Marine Surveillance vessel to be commissioned.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

VOA China scores small victory in battle for survival

It remains unclear whether, if passed, the amendment would save the 40 jobs or so that are to be cut if VOA ceases all traditional broadcasts in Cantonese and Mandarin to China

The battle to keep Voice of America’s (VOA) Mandarin and Cantonese radio and TV broadcasts to China alive continued in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday with a unanimous vote for a proposal that would secure money for the embattled China unit.

The authorization bill, sponsored by US Representative Dana Rohrabacher during a markup hearing, reserves US$13.76 million from the total budget for government-sponsored broadcasting next year to be strictly used for Mandarin and Cantonese radio and TV broadcasts. That amount is equal to thie operational budget for VOA’s China unit for FY2011.

“Of the funds to be appropriated to the Broadcasting Board of Governors [BBG], [US]$13.76 million is authorized to be appropriated only for Voice of America Mandarin and Cantonese-language radio and satellite television broadcasting,” it says. “Such funds may not be used for any other purpose.”

The authorization bill was included in the State Department Authorization Act for FY2012. It is now scheduled for a markup hearing at the Appropriations Subcommittee on July 27.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lai Changxing expelled

As expected, the Chinese fugitive who has been at the center of controversy for 11 years was kicked out of Canada on Friday and now faces an unenviable future in the Chinese legal system

After an 11-year court saga, Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing (賴昌星) was finally expelled from Canada on Friday and will now find himself in the hands of the Kafkaesque court system in China.

As I wrote in an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen earlier this week, Beijing’s assurances that Lai will not be executed should, given China’s track record on such matters, be enough to give us pause. As some commentators wrote this week, maybe Beijing will stick to its promise, but the chances that something bad will happen to him while in jail — say, a heart attack after being tortured — are high (one of Lai’s brothers has already died while in detention).

And despite China’s assurances, the judge who ordered his deportation has since admitted that Canadian officials would not be allowed to attend the closed hearings.

It has since emerged that Tao Mi, an employee at Lai’s company whose initial statement to Chinese police had implicated Lai, later gave a statement to a Canadian lawyer in China recanting that testimony. A Chinese official was present when Canadian immigration officials interviewed Tao and Tao hasn’t been heard from since. What’s more, Clive Ansley, the lawyer who had taken the initial statement from Tao and later testified in Lai’s defense, saw his license to practice in China revoked and was expelled.

I’ve already spoken my mind about the Harper administration on the matter, and how it is now “selling to the almighty dollar” and its gullible officials are being played by China. This makes me ashamed to come from a country that puts such morally compromised officials into high office (not that the Liberals fared much better on China, but at least Lai wasn’t expelled during their tenure).

What I find equally disheartening are the dozens of comments, ostensibly by Canadian readers, accompanying online articles about Lai’s fate. In most cases, the commentators are in favor of his expulsion and lament the 11 years, at some cost to Canadian taxpayers, it took before a final decision was made. Such comments, with their emphasis on legal costs and a borderline racist view of immigrants, are not reflective of the Canada that I grew up in. None of those individuals ever question the legal system back in China that claims Lai is a criminal, or even acknowledge the shenanigans that surrounded the whole case. Some don’t even seem to care whether he is executed or not. 

This is disgusting. I’m staying in Taiwan, thank you very much.

Taiwanese navy must turn asymmetrical

The days when the Taiwanese navy could rely on technological superiority to overcome numerical inferiority are gone, James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara argue

The Taiwanese navy can no longer hope to compete with China for control of the waters adjoining Taiwan and should instead embark on a program that focuses on “sea denial,” two academics argue in a landmark study of Taiwan’s naval strategy.

Calling for a break with Taiwan’s naval power paradigm, Chinese navy experts James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara of the US Naval War College write that denying the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) use of the waters around Taiwan would be nearly as effective for homeland defense as fighting for outright sea control, as designated in the current strategy.

To achieve sea denial — the naval strategy of the weaker side in a conflict — Taipei would have to “forgo its desire for sea control” and “resist the allure of the high-end ships strong navies use to take command of vital expanses,” they write in the 67-page Defending the Strait: Taiwan’s Naval Strategy in the 21st Century published this week by the Jamestown Foundation, adding that “reconfiguring the fleet and devising inventive tactics would let the ROCN [Republic of China Navy] take advantage of the island’s geography.”

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

China 'officially launches' second Type 071 LPD

The ship was already launched in November last year, with little fanfare. The announcement that it was officially launched — a splashier affair — recently looks timed to coincide with rising tensions in the South China Sea

The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has officially launched its second Yuzhao-class Type 071 landing platform dock (LPD) in Shanghai, Chinese media have reported.

With a length of 210 m and a width of 28 m, the 19,000-tonne Jinggangshan (井岡山) can accommodate helicopters, armoured fighting vehicles, boats, landing craft and about 1,000 soldiers.

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

China confirms first test flights for U8 helo UAV

China could be on the brink of achieving critical mass in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle technology

China's first indigenously developed unmanned helicopter has completed its first series of test flights, state media reported on 20 July.

The U8, developed by the China Helicopter Design Institute under state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), made 29 sorties during 15 days recently, remaining in the air for an aggregate 577 minutes. It reached altitudes of 1,060 m at Tianshui City in Gansu Province and 3,060 m in Xining, Qinghai Province, Xinhua news agency reported.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beijing pulled a fast one on Baird

Fools or cynics, the Conservatives are insulting our intelligence as they try to rationalize their volte-face on China

Commenting on the deportation case of fugitive Lai Changxing (賴昌星) while in Beijing on Monday, Canadian foreign affairs minister John Baird said he had “no reason” to distrust the assurances of the Chinese government when it said that capital punishment will no longer be used for white-collar crimes.

Lai, who fled to Canada and has been wanted since 1999 on allegations by China that he masterminded a $10-billon (U.S.) smuggling ring, was suddenly ordered deported by Canadian authorities last week — coincidentally, mere days before Baird was to embark on his visit to China — until a court order on Wednesday stalled those efforts. He could now be deported as early as next week.

One of the crucial elements in Lai’s 12-year court case in Canada was whether he would face torture or execution if he were returned to China, wavering that is seen as having “damaged” relations between Ottawa and Beijing. The assurances given Baird now appear to have assuaged fears that his deportation could give rise to a Chinese replay of the shameful Maher Arar case.

My op-ed, published today in the Ottawa Citizen under the title “Reason to Distrust,” continues here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Enough with the pessimism

Defeatism has descended upon the West. It’s all doom and gloom, with seemingly intractable economic crises and an opponent that threatens to outpace us. Calm down — we’ve been there before

In addition to helping us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, history can also teach us that our pessimistic urges, when we believe that all is lost, have nothing original about them.

There was a time, soon after the euphoria that followed the end of World War II, when failure seemed certain and that the selflessness and sacrifices of the “greatest generation,” which had ensured victory of the “free world” against fascism, had been spent in vain. The early successes of the Soviet Union, starting with the detonation of its first nuclear bomb in August 1949 through the launch of the Sputnik satellite in October 1957, added to the “loss” of China in 1949 and ill-starred beginnings to the Korean War in 1950, came as body blows that threatened to fell what just a few years before had seemed like an implacable force.

Soon, mass pessimism was taking hold of Washington and allied capitals, leading otherwise intelligent officials to inflate the Soviet threat with the so-called “missile gap” that put the West’s very existence at risk. 


Sixty years later, the West finds itself in a similar situation. Just as it did back then, pessimism pervades in the wake of a sweeping ideological victory.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Official confirms ‘carrier killer’ is being developed [UPDATED]

By making the program official, China wants the US to know that the PLA is developing ways to counter the US presence in the region. Comments about a technical bottleneck were to ensure the warning did not sound too threatening 

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) confirmed earlier this week that China was developing the Dong Feng 21D (DF-21D, 東風21D) anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the first Chinese official to publicly state that the missile is in development. (Note: pictured left is a DF-21C and its road-mobile launcher, not a DF-21D.)

His comments came as the English-language China Daily reported that the DF-21D had a range of 2,700km (see update at bottom), well beyond assessments by the Office of Naval Intelligence last year, which put it at about 1,500km.

The missile, which is capable of hitting moving targets at sea and is seen as a potential threat to aircraft carrier battle groups, would represent a powerful deterrent to the US Navy in the Pacific (see map, right, which can be enlarged).

However, Chen said the DF-21D, which can be fired from mobile land-based launchers, was still in the research, development and testing stage, adding that such high-tech devices were difficult to bring to maturity.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.  My article in Jane’s Defence Weekly is available here (subscription required).


I have since heard from another source who happens to know someone at the China Daily. According to his account, staff at the paper added the part on 2,700km themselves. An original version of the article, since removed from the China Daily Web site, appears to have directly quoted Chen Bingde saying the missile had a range of 2,700km. However, and as my article makes it clear, the claims about the extended range have yet to be confirmed, and no official Chinese coverage mentions such a range. That said, this doesn’t mean it would be technically impossible to increase the range of the DF-21D, as Fisher and others told me yesterday.

My article and assessment of the reasons for Chen’s official announcement remain valid. Chen wanted to let the US know that China is indeed developing effective ways to counter US ‘hegemonism’ in the Pacific, but without making it sound too threatening, hence the caveat on the difficulties in its R&D.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chinese media won’t ‘educate’ the Chinese about Taiwan

Fourteen years of contact between Hong Kong and China have failed to ‘transform’ China. What makes anyone think the outcome will be any different with Taiwan?

I had the honor yesterday of having lunch with the consul-general in Hong Kong of a certain Scandinavian country, who was leading a delegation of officials on a short fact-finding visit in Taiwan. During our wide-ranging, 90-minute lunch, we touched on a number of topics regarding politics in Taiwan, from the January elections — the object of their invitation — to relations between Taiwan and China.

Toward the end of our meeting, one member of the delegation asked me for my opinion on the ability of Chinese reporters based in Taiwan to truthfully report on the electoral process, and whether this would be an opportunity for China to learn more about what it is like to evolve in a pluralistic democracy.

My response was something to the effect that Chinese reporters were pre-approved by their state-owned media and that it was unlikely anything they sent back across the Taiwan Strait that did not reflect Beijing’s official line was unlikely to make it past the censors. I added that Chinese media were increasingly pooled, with regional media allowed only to reproduce the “official” version provided by state media (such as its wire agencies).

The consul-general, a keen and engaging observer of politics in the region, said that based on his experience in Hong Kong and travels in the mainland, he was not very optimistic about the prospects of Chinese reporters based in Taiwan providing as an honest window for Chinese to learn about Taiwan. While, with some exceptions like the Apple Daily, Hong Kong media have relative ease of (though by no means free) access in China, the opposite is markedly different, he said, with Chinese reporting on events in Hong Kong providing a highly censored version. On the large protests that are held in the Special Administrative Region on a regular basis over matters such as universal suffrage (which remains beyond reach), freedom of expression or Article 23 of the Basic Law, Chinese media will almost invariably portray them as instances of civil unrest threatening stability, while negating all mention of the root causes of the protests or the context in which they occurred. In other words, the aim of Chinese reporting about Hong Kong is to portray democracy as “chaotic” and “unruly,” as something undesirable and potentially dangerous in the mainland.

If Chinese media failed to learn from their contact with Hong Kong, there is little reason to believe that things will be any different with Taiwan. It’s been 14 years since the territory was “returned” to China; those who advocate contact as a means to liberalize and democratize China have very little to show to support that theory.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Biden to tell Beijing US won’t sell F-16C/Ds to Taiwan: report

Insiders say the vice president is rarely called upon to do the heavy lifting for the Obama administration. Could this be the exception to the rule?

US Vice President Joe Biden, who is expected to embark on a state visit to China in the middle of next month, will provide assurances to Beijing that the US has no plans to sell Taiwan the F-16C/D aircraft it is seeking, reports said yesterday.

During his visit, Biden will explain why the US President Barack Obama’s administration, facing pressure from US Congress and required to meet its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, would agree to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of 144 F-16A/B aircraft, the Chinese-language news service DW News (多維新聞) reported, citing an unnamed “senior US official.”

However, Biden will reportedly tell his Chinese hosts that Washington has no plans to sell to Taiwan the 66 more advanced F-16C/D it has been seeking since 2006, the report said.

An official announcement on Washington’s decision not to release the F-16C/Ds and to proceed on the upgrade plan will be made in September, it said.

Contacted for comment, US-based officials knowledgeable about arms sales to Taiwan could not corroborate the information about Biden’s planned assurances, nor could the identity of the “senior official” be independently ascertained.

At press time, the Taipei Times was still awaiting a response from Biden’s office.

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

The limits of exclusion

A new political party claims that to protect Taiwan, people who were born in or have lived in Taiwan for an extended period but who identify as Chinese should be expelled. Here’s why this could be dangerous

Election fever is slowly descending upon Taiwan, promising excitement as contrasts and divisions become more salient between and within parties. The birth of a new political party over the weekend, whose main objective is the creation of a new country, will add to that febrility.

Although the arrival of a new party is a welcome development in a pluralistic democracy like Taiwan, it is important that we closely scrutinize its ideology to ensure that it does not deviate too much from the ideals that buttress our society.

Announcing its formation on Sunday, the Taiwanese National Party (TNP) left no doubt that its raison d’etre centered on a hardened nationalistic stance vis-a-vis China. Given Beijing’s unyielding claims to Taiwan, added to fears that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration is being too “soft” on China, it is not surprising that, with elections looming, we would see the emergence of more hard-line rhetoric.

To a certain extent, that is a welcome development, as it will add a new angle to the soul-searching that ought to precede important elections such as those in January.

However, some elements of the TNP platform give us reason to pause.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Doubts are raised over alleged sub-launched missile

Without long overdue mid-life upgrades, the Dutch-built submarines would be incapable of firing the Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missile, experts say

Reports last week that Taiwan had test-fired Hsiung Feng II (“Brave Wind”) anti-ship missiles from a Dutch-built Hailung (“Sea Dragon”)-class submarine last month may have been wrong, Defense News wrote in an article on Friday.

The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) broke the story on Thursday, which was then picked up by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and published in this newspaper on Friday (“Taiwan test-fires self-developed sub-launched missile,” July 8, page 1).

A former Taiwanese navy officer who reportedly worked with ordnance used on the submarines told Defense News that the Hailung-class subs had “absolutely no capability” of launching anti-ship missiles from their torpedo tubes.

This article, which I wrote as a Staff Writer, continues here. Note: With a Ministry of National Defense under the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration that has become increasingly unwilling to share information with the media, or as in this case to deny outright information that is obviously false, such misleading reporting is likely to happen again. We even contacted MND today for comment on the Defense News report, and their chief spokesman again refused to comment.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Neglect is hurting military morale

As an authoritarian regime with strict control of information, Beijing is in a far better position than Taipei to highlight military successes while masking failure, a propaganda imbalance that could affect morale in Taiwan

In his Art of War (孫子兵法) military treatise, ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu (孫子) makes a convincing case for the need to ensure good morale in the ranks while undermining that of one’s opponent, adding that this will be a determining factor in a military’s will to fight.

If Sun Tzu were alive today and asked to assess the balance of morale in the Taiwan Strait, he would quickly conclude that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is faring much better than the Taiwanese military. A handful of factors in recent years have contributed to this state of affairs, including the inability of Taiwan to keep up with the PLA in terms of modernization of its military, defeatism in the public sphere and lack of a clear mandate from the executive branch.

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

Friday, July 08, 2011

China launches 'science research' satellite

Results of the scientific work carried out by Shijian satellites have never been published, giving rise to speculation that they are used to conduct surveillance and collect electronic intelligence

China launched an experimental orbiter from the Shijian family of satellites on 6 July to conduct what it calls "space scientific experiments".

The SJ-11-03, developed by China Spacesat, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), was lifted on a Long March II-C carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province. Among its many functions, CASC is known to support the General Staff Department (GSD) and General Armaments Department (GAD) in the development of space-based surveillance systems.

The satellite has a perigee of 701 km to 723 km and apogee of 98.21-degree orbit, similar to that of its predecessor, the SJ-11-01, which was launched in November 2009 and has a perigee of 695.7 km and an apogee of 710.6 km.

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

US defense cuts make F-16 sale more urgent

For reasons both strategic and financial, selling F-16s to Taiwan is a no-brainer, a lobby group argues

Amid announcements of defense cuts by US President Barack Obama’s administration and workforce reductions at Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-16 aircraft, the US government should take a fresh look at the impact of selling the fighter aircraft long sought by Taiwan, the US-Taiwan Business Council said on Wednesday.

Following news that the US defense budget could be cut by US$1.4 trillion over 12 years, Lockheed Martin on Sunday announced plans to cut 1,500 jobs across the country ahead of expected flattening demand from the US defense establishment.

In a press communique on Wednesday, the US-Taiwan Business Council called on Washington to consider the positive impact of selling the 66 F-16C/D aircraft requested by Taiwan since 2006.

News of the layoffs at Lockheed Martin, it wrote, “highlights the need for the US government to reassess its position on the sale and to consider the positive economic impact of releasing F-16s to Taiwan.”

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Taiwanese military reportedly develops ‘stealth’ coating

Unconfirmed reports of a test during nighttime claim a missile boat with the stealth coating managed to come to within 730m of another vessel before it was picked up by radar

The Taiwanese navy has made a major breakthrough in the development of an absorbent paint that can provide stealth capabilities to its weapons platforms, local media reported yesterday.

The radar-absorbing material, which reports said has been in development for a number of years, was recently tested on a 57-tonne Hai Ou (“Seagull”)-class fast attack boat (not pictured here; those are Kuang Hua VIs) , which has no stealth features, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported.

Two Seagulls, the No. 53 and No. 59, were deployed during the test. The No. 53, whose hull, machine guns, missiles and cabin were coated with the absorbent material, remained invisible to radar, while the No. 59, which was used as a control and did not receive the coating, was easily detected.

Only after the No. 53 came within sight did the radar finally detect it, reports said.

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

A mirage of cross-strait peace

What should be clear to Ma is that the ‘separation’ is the product of far more than accidents of history or a family feud — it is a choice

Touting his achievements while addressing the Central Advisory Committee of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Sunday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) turned to rhetoric that sounded far more like wishful thinking than statements of fact, which raises questions about his vision for Taiwan’s future.

The first bump occurred when he said that thanks to his policy of rapprochement with China over the past three years, war in the Taiwan Strait “has already become history.”

Not only did this ignore the massive military buildup that is taking place across the Strait, it also purported to read into a future that remains rife with uncertainty. Whether there is war in the Strait will be contingent on a number of variables over which Ma has little control, including political developments in China and the choice of 23 million Taiwanese as to whether they would accept being ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Although Ma has vowed not to seek unification, Beijing has repeatedly made it clear that its patience on the matter is not infinite.

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

Monday, July 04, 2011

Contract awarded for first four Black Hawk helicopters

Once integrated into the armed forces, the Black Hawks will replace its aging fleet of UH-1H Huey helicopters and serve a series of functions

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp was awarded a US$48.6 million firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of four “green” UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Taiwan, the US Department of Defense announced last week.

Work will be performed at the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, Connecticut, with an estimated -completion date of May 30, 2013, said the release, issued on Thursday.

The four “green” helicopters — a term referring to initial assembly of a standard platform before customer add-ons are requested — are part of the 60 Black Hawk utility helicopters included in the US$6.4 billion Foreign Military Sale (FMS) notified to US Congress in January last year.

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

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Varyag sits tight despite rumors of first sea trial

For mechanical reasons or fears the sea trial would complicate an already tense situation in the South China Sea, Chinas first aircraft carrier missed the CCP celebrations on Friday

The much-anticipated first sea trial of Chinas refurbished aircraft carrier Varyag has been postponed until August at the earliest because unspecified mechanical problems, according to Chinese media.

Earlier reports had said the Kuznetsov-class carrier would go to sea on 1 July to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. However, an unnamed Chinese military official told Hong Kong media that certain parts and components of the 60,000-ton, Ukrainian-built ship needed repair and maintenance. 

There is also speculation that ongoing tensions in the South China Sea were behind the decision to postpone the launch, in case the dispute involving China, Vietnam and the Philippines was exacerbated.

My article, published on July 1 in Janes Defence Weekly, continues here (subscription required).

Friday, July 01, 2011

Air force receives first upgraded fighters

While good news for Taiwan, some the release of the upgraded indigenous fighters could serve as ammunition to the US State Department, which could argue that Taiwan doesn not need the F-16s

With efforts to acquire F-16C/D aircraft from the US in limbo, the air force was yesterday given a shot in the arm when it received the first six of a planned 71 upgraded multi-role Indigenous Defence Fighters (IDF).

The F-CK-1A/B MLU (“mid-life upgrade”) was unveiled during a handover ceremony at the Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC, 漢翔航空) plant in Shalu (沙鹿), Greater Taichung, attended by top brass and scores of politicians, including President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) and Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強).

Years in the making, the upgrade involves a revamping of the aircraft’s avionics and flight control systems, a triple-color heads-up display and anti-electronic jamming functions, as well as the full integration of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (中山科學研究院), such as the Tien Chien II “Sky Sword.”

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