OpinionMeister

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chinese Arms Buildup May Disrupt Asian Balance

The Guardian, in light of France's push to lift the arms embargo on China, reports from Taiwan on the Chinese military buildup. Link.
"If Beijing keeps building up its strength, our analysis is that by 2008 to 2012, the balance of power will tip towards China," Mr Tsai (deputy defense minister of Taiwan) said. (...)

"More than 700 ballistic missiles are deployed across the coastal province of China. We expect that to increase to 800 by 2006, including about 100 long-range missiles capable of delivering a warhead more than 12,000km (7,500 miles) - capable of hitting California or any part of the Pacific region, including Taiwan, Korea, Japan."

China also has about 80 submarines, nuclear and diesel powered, many obtained from Russia, and is expanding its military horizons. Last December, a Chinese submarine penetrated the so-called "first island chain" - a notional maritime defence line running south from Japan to the Philippines - and sailed close to the US naval base on Guam in the Pacific. (...)

"Every day 600 to 900 vessels pass through the Taiwan Strait," Mr Tsai says. "Most are Japanese and foreign ships, mostly carrying oil. There are also more than 1,000 commercial flights in the zone every day." And Taiwan, despite its relatively small population of 24 million people, is a major global exporter, with an economy ranked 16th in the world.

If the cold war turns hot, or if China mounts a blockade of the island, Mr Tsai predicts, the result could be a big international crisis, potentially drawing in the US Pacific fleet's carrier groups, as happened briefly in 1996. (...)

The EU's proposal to replace its arms embargo on China with a restrictive code of conduct is officially seen in Taipei as sending the wrong signal to Beijing. Privately, officials are scathing about what they believe is the reckless pursuit of economic self-interest by some states, notably France.

It is ironic that the EU barely produces any weapons for its own ever-shrinking military, but its weapons production is growing, for sales to others, many of whom would have no compunction to use those weapons against Western Europe or its allies. France armed Iraq, it is arming Iran, and now it wants to arm China. Friends should not let friends arm enemies.

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