China is acquiring the capabilities to mount a full attack on Taiwan by 2020, Taipei said in a biennial defense report on Monday.
In the 2013 ROC National Defense Report, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) says that China will have the capability to forcibly reunite Taiwan and mainland by the year 2020. Focus Taiwan summarized the report as saying that China is building up its “combat capabilities to a level where it could launch an all-out attack on Taiwan, including the outlying islands.”
Among these capabilities, according to the report, China currently has 1,000 missiles aimed at Taiwan and this number has been on the rise. The report added that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) “has stationed a large number of advanced aircraft within unrefueled range of Taiwan, providing them with a significant capability to conduct air superiority and ground operations against Taiwan.”
In the report, the MND also expresses concern about China’s procurement of two large amphibious assault ships, which it compares to the Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ships used by the U.S. Navy.
It also noted that Beijing is acquiring a number of capabilities—notably, the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM)—and perfecting so-called “combined operations” in order to have the necessary capabilities to deter third parties from intervening during a Chinese assault on Taiwan.
China is meanwhile constructing a multi-layered missile defense system to limit the amount of retaliation Taiwan can bring to bear against mainland China during an attack. “A number of long-range air defense systems provide strong layers of defense against a counterattack in mainland China,” the report said, Focus Taiwan reported.
Cheng Yun-peng, director-general of the MND's Department of Strategic Planning, said in a press conference this week that the 2020 timeframe is merely a rough estimate of when China would have the capabilities to overrun the island.
The National Defense Report noted that Taiwan is seeking to counter China’s moves by focusing on an asymmetrical homeland defense strategy. Cheng specifically alluded to the Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles Taiwan has developed to counter an amphibious assault from PLA forces.
Taiwan relies on the United States to provide much of its advanced weaponry. Earlier this month the U.S. delivered the first of twelve P-3C Orion patrol aircraft it is selling to Taiwan. The P-3C Orion is used for anti-submarine operations.
Last week, at a U.S.-Taiwan defense conference near Washington, DC, Taiwan’s Deputy Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa reaffirmed Taiwan’s desire to purchase submarines and advanced fighter jets from the U.S. Yen in particular said his government was prioritizing advanced conventional submarines, suggesting, along with the HF-3s, that Taiwan is intent on developing anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.
Although the U.S. approved the sale of eight conventional submarines to Taiwan in 2001, the U.S. doesn’t make them itself and other countries that do, such as Germany, have been reluctant to sell to Taiwan for fear of offending China, which considers Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory.
Back in July, Taiwan also informed the U.S. that it wishes to purchase F-35s for national defense. The U.S. seemed to rule out this possibility back in 2011 when it agreed to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16s rather than sell more advanced F-35s to the island nation.
Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned a Taiwanese envoy he was meeting with that a resolution to their political divide couldn’t be put off indefinitely.