China will be able to successfully invade Taiwan by 2020 as it gains military strength and develops technology to prevent allies such as the U.S. from coming to the island’s aid, the Taiwanese defense ministry said.
A military modernization campaign has seen China’s People’s Liberation Army enhance its ability to make long-range precision strikes and deny other ships access to the area, the ministry said in its 2013 National Defense Report. China’s defense budget has more than doubled since 2006.
“As the PLA continues to grow and proactively builds its anti-access/area denial strategy, and as it develops long-range precision strike weaponry and extends its overseas power projection capability, they will become a serious threat to the security of our nation,” the report said.
The ministry’s assessment underscores China’s growing military might in a region where it has pressed its territorial claims more aggressively in disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. The U.S. military says China has deployed a ballistic missile along its southern coast to deter American aircraft carriers in the region that might come to Taiwan’s aid.
The defense ministry report, released yesterday, comes as China and the island it considers a breakaway province have deepened economic ties. Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled he wants a political resolution, saying at a regional summit this month that the two sides can’t hand those problems “down from generation to generation.”
China’s territorial disputes with other nations may dominate a two-day summit hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that begins today in Brunei. The report’s release may be aimed at reminding people of the China threat amid better ties, according to Wong Ming-Hsien, a Taipei-based professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.
“China’s military already has the power to attack Taiwan - - it’s now looking to counter threats from countries like the United States and Japan,” Wong said. “The report mentioning 2020 is to remind Taiwan and the rest of the world that China has not given up using force against Taiwan.”
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since Nationalist Party forces led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island during a war against Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949. Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1972, the U.S. is obligated to maintain peace and security across the Taiwan Strait. U.S. military budget cuts may hurt the standing of the U.S. in Asia over the next 10 to 15 years, the report said.
Asked to comment on the report today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she hadn’t seen it but the two sides have “momentum of peaceful development.”
“We hope to keep communicating with Taiwan to protect the momentum,” Hua said. “This is beneficial to people on both sides and beneficial to regional peace and prosperity.”
China has stated that “separatist forces” in Taiwan are the main threat to peace, Taiwan’s defense ministry said. The PLA is already able to seal off Taiwan’s main island and occupy outlying islands, according to the report.
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