The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

The Tai­wanese navy this week con­ducted an an­ti­sub­ma­rine war­fare drill as part of a re­cent ef­fort to im­prove the is­land’s de­fenses against a Chi­nese un­der­wa­ter at­tack.

Con­ducted Tues­day about 10 miles off Tai­wan’s south­west­ern coast, the drill in­volved sur­face ves­sels and he­li­copters in sim­u­lated hunt-and-kill op­er­a­tions against sub­marines.

China’s mas­sive mil­i­tary buildup over the past two decades has prompted Tai­wan to en­hance its de­fenses — with sig­nif­i­cant help from the U.S. Wash­ing­ton pro­vides key weapons sys­tems that are man­dated by the 1979 Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act, which re­quires the U.S. to pro­vide arms that al­low Taipei to main­tain par­ity with Bei­jing’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, the United States has been ham­pered by ob­sta­cles that have pre­vented Tai­wan from keep­ing its de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties on par with China’s of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

For ex­am­ple, the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2001 ap­proved the sale of eight diesel-elec­tric sub­marines to Tai­wan, even though the U.S. long ago ceased mak­ing non-nu­clear-pow­ered subs. Pro­longed talks about cost and con­gres­sional con­cerns about tech­nol­ogy trans­fer re­sulted in in­ac­tion that con­tin­ues to this day.

China’s navy, with nearly 60 sub­marines, in­clud­ing a half-dozen nu­clear-pow­ered at­tack and bal­lis­tic mis­sile subs, holds a de­ci­sive ad­van­tage over Tai­wan. Taipei cur­rently de­ploys only two old Dutch-made sub­marines.

An­a­lysts say Tai­wan must strengthen its anti-sub ca­pa­bil­i­ties to coun­ter­bal­ance China’s forces.

To help meet Tai­wan’s anti-sub­ma­rine needs, the U.S. in 2007 agreed to sell P-3C Orion mar­itime pa­trol air­craft to the Tai­wanese mil­i­tary. The first four were re­cently de­liv­ered.

The Tai­wanese mil­i­tary re­cently up­graded two sub­marines by arm­ing them with up to 32 UGM-84A Har­poon anti-ship mis­siles. The Har­poon, made by McDon­nell Dou­glas [now Boe­ing], is an ad­vanced, all-weather, seaskim­ming, radar-guided mis­sile. Its “over-the-hori­zon” sys­tem can reach tar­gets about 70 nau­ti­cal miles away, plac­ing many of China’s sur­face ships within its range. Bei­jing, since many in Asia view Rea­gan as the U.S.’ most force­ful anti-com­mu­nist pres­i­dent.

“The Amer­i­can troops sta­tioned in Ja­pan will re­ceive even more pow­er­ful nu­clear-pow­ered air­craft car­rier in or­der to en­hance the rapid-re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity of the Ja­pan-U.S. joint mil­i­tary al­liance” was how the Bei­jing’s of­fi­cial news­pa­per Global Times re­sponded to the an­nounce­ment of the Rea­gan’s de­ploy­ment.

In 2008, the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton be­came the first U.S. nu­clear-pow­ered car­rier to be based over­seas. At the time, the U.S. wished to play a neu­tral role in the re­gion by dis­patch­ing a car­rier named af­ter a pres­i­dent ac­cept­able to China, North Korea, Ja­pan and Viet­nam.

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers re­jected the USS Harry S. Tru­man for de­ploy­ment to Ja­pan be­cause of Tru­man’s de­ci­sion to use the atomic bomb in World War II. The USS Dwight D. Eisen­hower was ruled out for 7th Fleet head­quar­ters in Ja­pan, not far from the Tai­wan Strait, be­cause it might have of­fended China.

Times have changed. The U.S. naval base at Yoko­suka is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant for­ward bases in Amer­ica’s strate­gic shift to Asia, and the Navy is ex­pected to de­ploy six air­craft car­ri­ers for op­er­a­tions in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion un­der the pol­icy.

China has be­come more ag­gres­sive and can­tan­ker­ous in the re­gion, and is at odds with Ja­pan over own­er­ship of the Senkaku is­lands.

Miles Yu’s col­umn ap­pears Fri­days. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com and @Yu_miles.

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