Taiwan Military Walks a Fine Line

By Phillip Charlier

This week, the Taiwan military looks like a pawn in the chess game of global geo-military politics. The September 22-26 Han Kuang exercises are being kept low-key this year in order not to stir up tensions with cross strait rival, the Peoples Republic of China.

This year, the live-fire exercises will not be televised, as had been the policy of the previous Democratic Progressive Party government.

But the exercises, which usually involve defending the island against invaders from across the strait have not been canceled altogether. This is to ensure Taiwan’s American friends that Taiwan is willing to defend itself.

Taiwan has more than US$11 billion of military hardware on order from the United States, including Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile missiles, P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, and a feasibility study for diesel submarines. It is also attempting to win American approval for the delivery of 66 F-16 fighter jets.

Instead of focusing on defending the island from mainland forces, this years exercise will concentrate on military-media relations and ‘military hospitality’, particularly for high-level guests.

Passenger’s on Taiwan’s High Speed Rail yesterday were shocked to see 63 fully armed soldiers on board.

High Speed Rail authorities claimed that normally, armed passengers were not allowed to board the train. A special exception was made for the Han Kuang exercises on the proviso that arms would be covered and not visible. According to the China Post, however, the weapons were not covered. Soldiers wore full combat camouflage fatigue and had faces painted.

In the mean time, Banciao District prosecutors raided the offices and homes of several military contractors who were part of a bid – rigging ring. Top military brass received bribes for contracts amounting to billions of Taiwan Dollars. Payments were also made for military promotions.

Sources: China News Agency, Associated Press, Taiwan News, China Post