No Missiles on the Coast, PLA Chief Says

This week People’s Liberation Army Chief Chen Bingde visited Washington DC to attend high-level military dialogue with American counterparts, the first visit of such kind since Beijing cut off military contact after U.S. sold Taiwan a large arms package in 2010. At a joint-press conference during the dialogue, Gen. Chen denied that China has missiles positioned across from Taiwan.  From Taipei Times:

Chen Bingde said that one American friend suggested that China remove the missiles deployed along its southeast coast opposite Taiwan.

“I can tell you here, responsibly, that we only have garrison deployment across from Taiwan and we do not have operational deployment, much less missiles, stationed there,” he said. “To be sure, we did make necessary military preparations to prevent ‘separatist’ forces headed by Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, who attempted to split Taiwan from Chinese territory.”

Many Taiwanese politicians have since spoke out criticizing Gen. Chen for “lying through his teeth”. Taiwanese experts maintain that in reality China has many missiles aimed at Taiwan. From Wall Street Journal:

Experts and Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense say China has more than 1,000 missiles targeted at Taiwan. While many of the missiles may not be “across from Taiwan,” they’re awfully close, as Mark Stokes, executive director of think tank Project 2049 Institute thoroughly chronicles in a recent blog post.

Taiwan’s top brass responded in kind, with Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu calling Gen. Chen’s statement “far from the truth.” He added, “In actuality China has been continuously increasing the number of missiles it has deployed along the coast.”

And lest anyone interpret Gen. Chen’s comments as an indication of an actual softening of China’s stance on Taiwan, the military leader also stressed that China’s position on the island hasn’t changed, and that further arms sales to Taiwan could impact U.S.-China relations.

In Taiwan’s legislature on Thursday, Lin Yu-fang, a legislator and senior member of Taiwan’s national defense committee, said Gen. Chen was “lying through his teeth.” But in an interview Friday with China Real Time, he said despite Gen. Chen’s tougher statements about the impact Taiwan arms sales have on Sino-U.S. relations, it might be possible for China and the U.S. to broker an agreement to ensure they can maintain military relations as the U.S. continues to sell weapons to Taiwan.

In fact, 2009 the China Post published an article quoting China’s Ministry of National Defense as stating that Taiwan is within range of 1300 Chinese missiles. From the China Post:

All of Taiwan falls within the range of 1,300-plus ballistic missiles deployed by China, but it remains uncertain whether those missiles are targeted at Taiwan at the moment, a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official said Monday. Wang Cheng-hsiao, deputy chief of the General Staff for Intelligence, made the remarks at a news conference in which the defense ministry rolled out a major report on Taiwan’s defense posture over the next four years known as the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Noting that China needs only a very short period of time to target those missiles at Taiwan, Wang said the defense ministry has no way to confirm whether they are presently aimed at Taiwan. “But one thing is certain. All parts of Taiwan fall within their range,” he added.

Taiwan has developed its own missiles, too. Recently, it was revealed that three years ago Taiwan secretly and successfully tested a missile capable of reaching Beijing. From Yahoo News:

Taiwan has developed a missile capable of reaching Beijing and tested it successfully three years ago, a report said on Wednesday, citing a former defence minister.

Taiwan’s military successfully fired the medium-range missile in early 2008 in a secret test attended by then president Chen Shui-bian, said former defence minister Michael Tsai in memoirs released this week.

Tsai did not specify the range of the missile but the United Daily News said Wednesday it was capable of reaching major Chinese cities including Beijing, Chengdu and Shenyang with a 2,000-kilometre (1,250-mile) range.

The newspaper said Tsai is the first official to confirm the island has developed the technology, though local media have previously reported that Taiwan possessed mid-range missile capabilities.

Stephen Young, Washington’s then de facto envoy to Taipei, had expressed concerns over the test, but Tsai assured him that Taiwan would not initiate any attack, the former minister said in the book.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s annual report to Congress regarding China’s military power issued in 2010 emphasized that while both Beijing and Taiwan continue military build-up across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing may be willing to defer the use of force although it seeks to maintain a credible threat of force. From the U.S. Department of Defense’s report “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” (2010):

Alongside positive public statements about the Taiwan Strait situation  from top leaders in Beijing following the election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, however, there have been no signs that Beijing’s military dispositions opposite Taiwan have changed significantly.
The PLA has developed and deployed military capabilities to coerce Taiwan or to attempt an invasion, if necessary.  These improvements pose new challenges to Taiwan’s security, which has been based historically upon the PLA’s inability to project power across the 100 nautical mile Taiwan Strait, natural geographic advantages of island defense, Taiwan’s armed forces’ technological superiority, and the possibility of U.S. intervention.
For its part, Taiwan has taken important steps to build its war reserve stocks, as well as improve its defense industrial base, joint operations capability, crisis response, and officer and noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps.  These improvements have, on the whole, reinforced  Taiwan’s natural defensive advantages in the  face of Beijing’s continuous military build-up.   Following the release of its first Quadrennial Defense Review in March 2009, Taiwan has  also focused on creating an all-volunteer  military and reducing its active military endstrength from 275,000 to 215,000 personnel to create a “small but smart and strong force,” while maintaining its defense budget at three percent of its GDP.  Under this plan, which it plans to complete by December 2014, the cost difference of a smaller force will free up resources to increase  volunteer salaries and benefits.
Beijing appears prepared to defer the use of force, as long as it believes that long-term reunification remains possible and the costs of conflict outweigh the benefits.  Beijing argues that the credible threat to use force is essential to maintain the conditions for political progress, and to prevent Taiwan from making moves toward  de jure independence.  Beijing has refused for decades to renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue, despite simultaneously professing its desire for peaceful unification under the principle of “one country, two systems.”

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