Taiwan’s military would last “only two weeks” in a war with China across the strait, a former naval commander of the island said on Monday.
Lieutenant General Yeh Jen-wen, who served in Taiwan’s navy for 32 years, warned President Tsai Ing-wen that her government was “playing with fire” with its escalating arms procurement policy.
Yeh’s remarks in an interview with Hong Kong’s China Review News Agency came after the Trump administration announced two arms sales to Taipei within a week, including an estimated $2.37 billion in harpoon missile systems.
On Tuesday, US Election Day, the State Department approved another deal, this time for four armed Reaper drones worth $600 million. This is the tenth arms deal between Washington and Taipei since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
The Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to provide the democratic island with weapons of a defensive nature. Harpoon missiles with a range of more than 150 miles can be considered offensive, Yeh argues.
“The recent purchase of harpoon missiles threatens Beijing’s aircraft carriers and their access to the Pacific Ocean,” Yeh said according to a Washington Newsday translation of the news agency’s report.
The former Deputy Commander General of the Taiwanese Navy called it “hostile” behavior. He added that the Trump administration was “deliberately provoking Beijing.
“If Harpoon missiles are able to hit [China’s] aircraft carriers, they are more offensive in nature and no longer defensive,” he added.
The dynamics in the Taiwan Strait are now more psychological than strategic, the ex-marine commander said. “If Taiwan doesn’t make trouble, the Chinese Communist Party will tolerate it, but at some point it will be forced to do so.
“Politicians like to be ambiguous, but the military does not act with ambiguity. A war can be started with the push of a button”.
Ex-general says Taiwanese soldiers lack weapons: “Do you fight with brooms?
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Yen De-fa recently revealed that President Tsai could mobilize nearly 450,000 soldiers in the event of a conflict with China’s People’s Liberation Army at the Strait.
This figure would include 185,000 active soldiers and about 260,000 reserves, Yen noted, but Yeh argued that this would still leave the island’s armed forces far outnumbered.
“Taiwan would only take two weeks,” he told the news agency. “Do we really have enough troops? We must reintroduce conscription in order to fight.”
Yeh also referred to a September report by the U.S. Department of Defense, which pointed out that Beijing has a military budget that is about 15 times larger than that of Taipei.
Echoes of Concern
Yeh is not the only high-ranking former commander who warns of Taiwan’s obvious lack of military readiness.
In a recent interview with the same Hong Kong news site, retired Major General Hsiao Tien-liu of the Taiwanese army hinted that his soldiers lacked sufficient armament and equipment for a conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
“How can soldiers go to war without adequate equipment? Should they fight with brooms?” Hsiao Tien-liu was quoted as saying….