ROC (Taiwan) Vice Minister of Defense Andrew Nien-Dzu Yang: Prepare for the worst in bad budget times

Taiwan faces internal and external challenges at the edge of the global hot spot otherwise known as the South China Sea

Russ Imrie August 2012

The Stimson Center in DC hosted Mr. Andrew Yang, Taiwan’s Vice Minister of Defense for a briefing on the state of the nation’s defense posture. He described how Taiwan’s armed forces are intensely studying doctrine and tactics to meet the challenge of a credible defense facing stressed budgets that must not turn into an excuse for unwise moves. While the first line of a credible defense for the island nation is a robust regional economic relationship (especially with its large neighbor China), the nuts and bolts and [increasingly] technology of a modern armed forces require adaptation and constant upgrading. Cyberwarfare is playing a greater and greater role in defense planning for the island nation.

“We are not just buying equipment but studying and integrating principles of asymmetric warfare.”

seated l. to r. Vice Minister Andrew Nien-Dzi Yang (Ministry of National Defense), Ambassador Alan D. Romberg - photo Russ Imrie

seated l. to r. Vice Minister Andrew Nien-Dzi Yang (Taiwan Ministry of National Defense), Ambassador Alan D. Romberg – photo Russ Imrie

This talk was met with intense interest by Asian media and after some pointed Q&A, journalists swarmed around Mr. Yang and I filmed a bit as he answered vital questions on behalf of an audience that is paying attention to one of the larger regional debates in the Western Pacific.

Repair capacity (runways, aircraft, weapons) is a huge issue. Responsibility to “defend ourselves” in respect to our islands is strong. We need to strictly respect agreements, make clear to others, that we expect this from others.

In respect to Sansha Islands & Yongxing City, it’s “nothing said” diplomacy with China . End of story. So he says.

My sense is Taiwan is extremely concerned with Chinese encroachment in the islands, especially with the looming budget issues that are a problem for major projects everywhere. Getting spread too thin is a big concern in Taiwan, as it is for many nations in Southeast Asia.

With diplomacy more important than ever then, unilateral moves such as China’s claims on islands, which seem to violate the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which China is a signatory nation, devalue diplomacy and threaten the peace Taiwan and other Asian coastal trading nations merit. It’s in everyone’s best interests to pull back from such moves.

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