The military should reconsider its policy of refraining from launching a first strike in the face of increasing Chinese aggression, former National Defense University distinguished lecturer Holmes Liao (廖宏祥) said yesterday.
A total of 150 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in the first five days of this month, Ministry of National Defense data showed.
Asked about the guiding principle in the military’s response to Chinese aggression, Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told lawmakers on Wednesday: “The military holds to the principle that we will not fire the first shot.”
Liao said that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) directive of avoiding provocation and adventurism has been recast by the ministry into “a form of passive defeatism.”
“The defense ministry’s renunciation of the right and capability to strike first shows that the overall direction of the military is wrong and that our national defense strategy is cowardly,” he said.
More than two decades ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) declared that the first battle would be the decisive battle in the event of war with Taiwan, he said.
This means the PLA intends to attack with overwhelming force and speed while taking full advantage of the element of surprise to achieve victory in the shortest possible time, he said.
Although the air force has clear guidelines on how to respond to Chinese warplanes crossing the median line, the 30-nautical-mile (55.6km) line and the 12-nautical-mile line, these set responses are of a dubious tactical value, he said.
“With just minutes of warning, our pilots might not even have time to take off before the enemy aircraft commences aerial bombing,” he said.
The military should also assume that the PLA would utilize short-range tactical missiles to attack air base runways, air defense radars and missile batteries, communication hubs and command centers, he said.
Such attacks might render Taiwanese forces incapable of launching counterstrikes or staging an effective defense of the country, he said.
During the tenure of then minister of national defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發), who held the position from February 2018 to February this year, air force pilots were instructed to never fire on the enemy without orders and that those who did would be arrested and tried, Liao said, citing an unnamed officer.
Fighter pilots should have the freedom to judge the situation for themselves when they are actively carrying out a mission, Liao said, adding that it is too late to grant them the authority to use their weapons only after the enemy has locked on them.
“Pilots go through years of training so that they can exercise judgement on how best to defend themselves,” he said. “It is not acceptable that they are being threatened with court martial even as we send them into dangerous situations.”
“A country that puts soldiers in such a dilemma is close to betraying them,” he said.
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