TAIPEI — Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to the public Wednesday. This is only the second QDR produced by the MND.
The 99-page report is available in English from the MND website.
The reader might be disappointed to find the report lacks details. This is typical of MND reports, including the biennial MND white paper.
There are no major changes made on national defense policy, strategic objectives and strategic concepts from the 2009 QDR.
However, there are some minor differences. The 2013 QDR elaborates more on major changes in the regional security environment, such as China’s rapid military growth, the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategic adjustment and sovereignty claims over disputed islands.
Other improvements include more information about the MND’s development of joint warfighting capabilities and the “innovative/asymmetric” concept.
On the China threat, the report briefly covers issues regarding the relaxation of cross-Strait relations with China, China’s military strategy against Taiwan, China’s expansion of its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, tactical ballistic missile threat, electronic warfare, and other force modernization efforts.
The report mentions only in vague terms that the Nanjing and Guangzhou Military Regions have recently been outfitted with new weapon systems and equipment. “The goal of their military exercises is to rapidly end an island conflict and reduce the possibility of foreign interference.” None of the weapons is mentioned by name.
The report states China will gradually integrate its over-the-horizon radars with global and regional spy satellites to create a real-time surveillance system to enhance command and control.
China “has deployed anti-ship ballistic missiles” to enhance its capabilities. China’s Second Artillery Corps will continue to develop “all frontier, all weather, all dimension” strike capabilities for both conventional and nuclear scenarios. No details are offered, including no mention of the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile.
According to the report, China’s navy has shifted its strategic objective from “offshore defense” to “far sea defense.” China’s navy will continue to strengthen strategic deterrence of submarine-launched nuclear missiles and counterstrike capabilities, and improve its capabilities to respond to nontraditional security threats.
In order to respond to the threat, Taiwan’s air force plans to acquire next-generation stealth fighters, air refueling tankers, anti-radiation missiles and beyond-visual range missiles.
The army plans to procure more anti-armor missiles, short-range anti-armor rockets and new tanks. The army also needs to improve its “anti-heli-borne capabilities.”
The navy will also reinforce airborne anti-submarine and mine warfare capabilities.
The navy still plans to acquire submarines and advanced surface combatants. No details on how Taiwan will acquire submarines are mentioned, but MND officials have indicated Taiwan plans to study an indigenous build program.
This has been a recurrent declaration by the MND and other government institutions in Taiwan since the U.S. offered to sell Taiwan eight diesel submarines in 2001. The U.S. does not build diesel submarines, and no foreign country has offered to build them for Taiwan. Taiwan’s frustration with the U.S. is not evident in the report but is obvious amongst senior MND officials.
The QDR admits that Taiwan is facing more constraints on defense resources. Low birth rates are decreasing the number of qualified manpower as the military is forced to reduce the numbers of personnel and yet increase the qualitative professionalism of its personnel. The transition from conscription to an all-volunteer military only makes the problem worse.
Disaster relief operations have become a core mission requirement for the military after recent earthquakes and typhoons devastated parts of the country.
Cybersecurity has also become important. “Once a conflict starts, enemies may disable our command, control and logistics networks through cyber attacks.”
The QDR also discusses force modernization and streamlining efforts under the 2011-2014 Jingtsui Program. The six military service headquarters (army, navy, air force, combined logistics, reserve and military police) will be merged into three: army, navy and air force.
Despite the high-quality paper on which the report was published, the raised lettering on the cover, the glossy four-color pages, the report was uneventful despite the best efforts by senior MND officials to hype it to the media during a press conference. Yet one MND official privately admitted there was “nothing” in the report.