- China online media say stealth fighter makes first flight – Reuters (news.google.com)
- China Flexes Its Muscles with Stealth Fighter Test (time.com)
- China’s stealth jet makes first test flight (theglobeandmail.com)
It’s too bad I missed Willy Lam’s talk in Taipei a couple of weeks ago…
…but yesterday I didn’t have to do a thing and a good opportunity fell into my lap. As a guest speaker in my Tuesday afternoon course on Cross-
Strait Relations and Asia-Pacific Security, Ambassador Michael Ying-mao Kau, PhD, Taiwan’s former representative to the European Union and Belgium (also former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and so forth), spoke on some salient issues related to the EU and contrasted them with the current situation in Asia. It was an interesting talk. He is very hopeful about the EU’s integration and sensitive to challenges it faces, including issues facing Turkey’s possible accession to the union and the near-trillion US dollar bailout for Greece. Asia, by contrast, remains firmly entrenched in the throes of nationalism and nowhere near as robust a level of integration, consisting mainly of a very loose economic regime in ASEAN. The unilateral use of force or the threat of force is still often times the preferred way to solve problems in Asia, something that Europe has moved beyond, at least in terms of relations internal to the Continent.
But that’s not all! Also this week I saw a couple other flyers up announcing some upcoming events that look like they might be worth checking out. These events are both in Taipei, put on by National Chengchi University.
The first one is next week, June 1 – 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday). Here’s the full scoop:
Welcome to IDAS international conference on 6/1
◆Title: Stronger Nations. Stronger Relations: New Prospects for Asia-Pacific Regional Integration
◆Venue: 5F, International Conference Hall, General Building of Colleges, National Chengchi University
◆International scholars: Dr.TJ Pempel from UC Santa Barbara University, Dr. Benjamin Cohen from Berkeley University, etc.
◆The conference focuses on the following issues:
＊Frontiers in Public Administration Governance: Leadership for the Modern World
＊New IPE Challenges for Asia- Pacific Region
＊Rediscovery of social and cultural development
＊Evolution of Asia-Pacific Security and New Security Focus
◆P.S.: We welcome all professors and students. Registration Required. Please register through the registration system before 05/28. Please see the agenda as the link below.
The second conference, on June 12 (Saturday), looks even better. It’s the 3rd annual conference of the Republic of China Institute of International Relations and the event, which runs all day, is entitled, “Theory and Practice of Dialogue.” The keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard Bush, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and current director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. I haven’t been able to locate an English version of the conference’s program, but here’s the program in Chinese (it’s essentially a larger version of the photo just below this paragraph). Lack of English publicity materials makes me suspect this event will be in Chinese, as opposed to the two-day conference next week, which explicitly indicates that it will be held in English (see above).
Finally, for those folks a bit west of here in a few weeks (DC-area), I would recommend trying to catch an event at the National Defense University on June 16. The symposium’s title is “China’s Naval Modernization: Cause for Storm Warnings?” and it looks almost as if the entire faculty of the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) of the U.S. Naval War College will be occupying the place to put on the event. They’ve gone as far as preparing a nice list of “read-ahead”-type items (PDF)for folks who are interested in attending. Related to the Naval War College’s CMSI, just today Dr. Andrew Erickson, an assistant professor at the Naval War College, founding member of CMSI, and fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, released the first edition of a newsletter (PDF) written by him and another researcher called China Signpost. The aim of the newsletter is to provide “high-quality China analysis in a concise, accessible form for people whose lives are being profoundly affected by China’s political, economic, and security development.” That pretty much describes anybody in Taiwan! The first issue concerns China’s reliance on petroleum and the authors’ conviction that China will continue to disproportionately rely on seaborne means of transportation to keep their oil supply flowing (despite what you might hear about China’s efforts to build pipelines to reduce their reliance on seaborne oil transport). The authors go on to explore the naval security implications that arise from China’s continuing dependence on maritime transport for energy needs. It’s certainly worth a read – as is everything else posted over at Dr. Erickson’s webpage, www.andrewerickson.com. (See also the top of the blogroll on the right-hand margin of this page.)
See you at the conferences!
Episode 5 of HBO’s The Pacific aired here in Taiwan last Saturday night. I’ve seen all five episodes thus far and want to offer my impressions of the series halfway through. I think it is useful to tie in some related reading I have been doing.
In a previous post I talked about reading E.B. Sledge’s account of the fantastically terrible fighting on Peleliu and Okinawa as preparation for the series. Selection of Sledge’s book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa was in fact a matter of convenience; it had been setting on my shelf, begging to be read for nearly a year since I found a very affordable paperback copy used at a bookstore in Monterey, California. My latest tie-in selection, William Manchester’s Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War was also one of convenience – during a “fire sale” on Audible.com in September 2009, I picked up the unabridged audiobook for cheap. It had been waiting in my audiobook queue, also beckoning – “Listen to me!” The time had come.
First of all, my full review of the book, which I finished yesterday, is here at Goodreads. However, there are a few things I would like to mention about it here in contrast with what I read in Sledge’s book. Not that really creates any disputes in the descriptions of the fighting – far from it. Rather, it is a matter of scope. Sledge’s book takes an almost “soda straw” view of the fighting he personally engaged in on two islands in the Pacific during World War II. Much has been written about how successful he was in describing the undeniably brutal combat in both places. Manchester’s book contains some of the same intense accounts of personal battle, but to it he adds a great deal of context, both from at the time the Pacific campaign was taking place, but also, and very uniquely, from the future – looking back at the battles and their aftermath from the vantage point provided by over three decades of hindsight and perspective. Writing in the late 1970s, Manchester was critical of the return of the Japanese in commercial and consumer roles to many of the same places that so many U.S. servicemen died in securing during the war, for instance Guam. I have spent some time on Guam, first in late 1996 and most recently in early 2008. If he though the place was overcommercialized and had too many Japanese tourists in the late 1970s, I shudder to think what he would make of it today. The main drag along Tumon Bay compares not unfavorably in terms of commercial development with Waikiki and is now studded with high-rise hotels and fancy boutiques. Yet only a few miles away in little villages life is completely different, lacking in basic needs like fresh water. As a legacy of the war, the island is already has a large U.S. military presence, but that will increase by a large margin when in the coming decade nearly 10,000 Marines and their families will most likely move from Okinawa to a new installation on Guam. Guam’s sons and daughters serve and give their lives in a disproportionately high percentage in today’s U.S. military forces, yet the people there cannot vote in the American presidential elections. Conditions in Guam today, faced with the impending U.S. military buildup, have many residents feeling like they are colonial subjects of the U.S. This situation bodes not well for the stability of the island in the future and is even more important as Guam takes a more central role in American strategy in the Pacific as traditional basing locations like Okinawa become less palatable, as the recent protests about the relocation of the Futenma Marine air base in Ginowan, Okinawa and the ongoing friction between the government of Japan and the Americans about what the plan is for the relocation of U.S. forces.
Manchester also visited Okinawa during his return to the Pacific, and was appalled by what he saw there as well. He called the base exchange he saw at Camp Foster, the largest of the Marine bases on Okinawa, bigger than any department store he had seen in the U.S. His return to the Philippines was a bit less shocking, if only because it seemed a bit less “Americanized.” I’ve also been to Manila and other places in the Philippines and what shocks the most is the contrast between rich and poor. Manila has no shortage of high-end Western hotels, shopping malls (the Mall of Asia there is the one of the largest in Asia), restaurants, and so forth, but oftentimes just a block or two away are people living in some of the most grinding conditions imaginable. Panhandling is epidemic. And then there is the Manila American Cemetery, where many of America’s battle dead from World War II are buried. When I visited it in 2007, I felt almost as if I had stepped into Arlington National Cemetery, with the rolling expanses of white cross-studded greenery. It was spacious and peaceful, a stark contrast to the teeming metropolis that surrounded it.
Even with Manchester’s and Sledge’s lucid descriptions of the combat all across the Pacific, it’s hard for me to imagine fighting in some of these places. Conditions on Guadalcanal sounded absolutely oppressive. It’s no wonder the 1st Marine Division emblem still boasts of their fortitude there.
Finally, specifically about The Pacific, I am enjoying each week’s episode. I prefer the installments that are more heavy on combat, less so the ones that are about “chasing tail” (i.e. episode 3 about Marines resting and refitting in Australia between the battle on Guadalcanal and the Cape Gloucester landing). In this respect I agree with critics who say that the series tries to hard to make a “love story.” Perhaps the second half of the series will be able to tie it all together. All in all, I would say that halfway through the ten-part series, I prefer Band of Brothers, though it left some seriously big shoes to fill.
Episode 6 of The Pacific airs tonight in Taiwan. Tune it to HBO to watch.
With the recent release of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the signing of the “New START” nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia, and the huge nuclear talks in Washington starting today that dozens of world leaders* are attending, nukes are all over the news and the blogosphere. (For a nice run-down of all three of these things, see this post from The Daily Kos‘s Page van der Linden.) On the same theme, the National Security Archive‘s UNREDACTED blog recently posted about a document, formerly classified and obtained with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that discusses aspiring nuclear powers. Entitled “Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” the report is from 1974, and does include Taiwan as a potential nuclear “up-and-comer.” (UNREDACTED posted the document not because it includes Taiwan, but instead because it includes still undeclared nuclear power Israel. My interest, though, lies with Taiwan.) I thought it would be interesting to look at what the report said about Taiwan’s pursuit of nuclear weapons back in the 1970s.
With regard to Taipei’s perceived nuclear capabilities, the report stated
In connection with an ambitious program for procurement and operation of nuclear power facilities on Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC) is gradually developing a potential for the production of nuclear weapons.
Sound a little bit like modern-day Iran? Not really. The report goes on to discuss the main location for Taiwan’s nuclear research efforts (a place called Lungtan, in northeastern Taiwan) and how, understandably, military efforts related to developing nuclear weapons in Taiwan were kick-started by Beijing’s first nuclear test (October 16, 1964).
There were still several technical roadblocks to a Taiwanese bomb, though. Difficulties remained in acquiring the proper technology for chemical separation (no mention of centrifuges here, though) and heavy water processing equipment. Most importantly, Taiwan was far from being able to deliver a nuclear device:
At this stage, there is no evidence of ROC progress toward development of a nuclear delivery system which would pose a credible threat to Mainland China targets.
This is in stark contrast to modern-day rogue states Iran and North Korea, both of whom have conducted successful ballistic missile tests. The bottom line on Taiwan’s nuclear weapons capabilities, circa 1974:
…[W]e think it would take a decision [to begin production of nuclear weapons] in the immediate future and considerable foreign assistance from sources such as Israel or France for the ROC to be able to construct a device by 1980.
I want to talk a bit more about Taiwan’s nuclear power facilities. According to a recent article in the Global Post, despite a long reluctance to expand Taiwan’s reliance on nuclear power, the “nuclear-friendly” KMT has begun to take another look at resuming expansion of Taiwan’s nuclear power industry, partially for “green” purposes – reduction of carbon output. (You can see the locations of Taiwan’s three currently active nuclear power stations in this document from Taipower, Taiwan’s state power company, and read about “The Burden-Laden Fourth Nuclear Project” – the controversial new nuclear station that has been delayed over much of the last decade.) The “raw materials” to build a bomb remain, but there are some significant reasons why Taiwan probably wouldn’t try it.
The biggest of these is that were that the PRC to catch wind of it, it would probably be grounds for an immediate attack. Most people agree that the military balance in the Taiwan Strait has decidedly tipped towards China over the past decade, and 9 out of 10 of these folks further concede that China has lots of ways to make life in Taiwan pretty unpleasant while at the same time frustrating American efforts to intervene. (For a concise example of this thinking, see RAND Senior International Policy Analyst Mr. David A. Shlapak’s recent testimony (PDF) before the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.)
At the time this report was written, the U.S. and Taiwan still had a mutual defense treaty, and the possibility of jeopardizing that blanket of protection if the U.S. discovered a clandestine attempt to build a bomb must have also entered Taiwan’s calculus. As a final word on intention, the report surmises that
Taipei probably sees a capability to design and produce a nuclear weapon as a potentially useful hedge against the unknown exigencies of the future, when it may be alone and facing great risks.
Yes, the writing was on the wall, was it not? With the beginning of normalization of ties between the U.S. and the PRC in the early 1970s ultimately resulting in American official “de-recognition” of Taipei before the end of the decade in favor of official recognition for Beijing, it had to have been a very uncertain time for Taiwan when this report was written. Fortunately, through the vagaries of 1979’s Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. was able to continue to provide Taiwan defensive weapons to help keep back the Communist hordes, the most recent iteration of arms sales under these auspices I discussed here and here.
More recently, in 2008 the U.S. accidentally shipped some nuclear parts – four nuclear triggers – to Taiwan. This episode was part of a larger pattern of “laxness” with regard to stewardship of the U.S. nuclear stockpile that ultimately resulted in a reshuffling of top U.S. Air Force leadership. (This post from Arms Control Wonk tells about one of the other nuclear “slip-ups” at that time – it’s worth a read.) I guess that answers the question of whether Taipei, when filling out their order blank for U.S. arms, can just check the box that says “nuclear device” – not usually.
*Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, decided at the last minute that the prospects of being called out at the conference by Middle Eastern neighbors like Egypt and Turkey about its undeclared but relatively universally accepted nuclear status was something he wanted to pass off on his deputy, Dan Meridor, instead.
For those readers in the US, this is not going to seem like anything new – HBO’s miniseries The Pacific premiered a few weeks ago. But in Taiwan, today’s the day! There will be a double feature on tonight (episodes one and two), and I plan to see it!
In preparation for viewing the series, I took it upon myself to brush up on my World War II Pacific theater history by reading Eugene Sledge’s classic account of Marines taking Peleliu and Okinawa, With The Old Breed. I wrote a short review of it here. After reading Sledge’s account of the brutal fighting, I am left wondering to what degree Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are going to be able to capture the experience in this ten-part series.
Since as I mentioned at the outset The Pacific has been out in the US for several weeks, there have been many reviews of the series in the mainstream media and the reviews that I read from this category all seemed to be highly laudatory (NYT, LAT). Not everyone in the “blogosphere” was drinking the Kool Aid, though. Historian Eric Hammel, writing on Tom Ricks’s award-winning blog The Best Defense had this to say about it:
Why should I be surprised a “docudrama” like The Pacific is shit? The whole effort behind the docu part is invested in toys such as gunner’s gloves. I long ago boycotted documentary filmmakers who want my brand to legitimize their sorry little TV vignettes. Their objective is entertainment centered on the dramatic visual, not the intellectual, and not quite the historical. If self-professed documentarians can’t get it right because they edit the talking heads to accommodate their thin film libraries, why should self-professed entertainers make a better effort, show greater concern?
Ouch. So it’s not a documentary, it’s entertainment, got it. I guess my standards just aren’t as high as someone like Hammel’s. I fully anticipate having the same reaction to it that Tom Ricks initially did: “hooked instantly.” (He later took on a more critical stance about the series.) Let’s put it this way: I really enjoyed watching the Hanks/Spielberg/HBO series that preceded and set the standard for this one, Band of Brothers, and when I finished watching that series, I said to myself, what about a series like that for the Pacific theater and the Marines? (Band of Brothers, for those who haven’t seen the series, focuses on U.S. Army soldiers in the European theater of war during WWII – Marines do not play a role.) The series I had hoped for is now here. As a U.S. Marine, I am naturally going to be partial to something telling “our” story, and I think that the desire by parties involved in making The Pacific to “get… it right” is a noble one. The Pacific would have to be pretty crappy for me not to like it. But I don’t think that a series that cost some $200 million and took nearly a year to film is going to be crappy. If I feel differently after watching tonight’s episodes, I will write about it later. Otherwise, it’s time for me to make sure my Saturday nights for the next 2 months are clear.
I would be interested to hear what anyone who has already seen one of the first three episodes aired in the US has to say about them. The comments section awaits your input.
Here are a couple links:
http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific/index.html (US official homepage)
http://www.hboasia.com/pacific/ (HBO Asia official homepage)
Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), said something in testimony to House Armed Services Committee last week that, uh, sort of set off people who have been watching Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) development. Here’s the key bit of Admiral Willard’s testimony (PDF):
China is also developing and testing a conventional anti-ship ballistic missile based on the DF-21/CSS-5 MRBM designed specifically to target aircraft carriers. (p. 14)
The part that was so provocative to China ASBM-watchers was the use of the word “testing.” Dr. Andrew S. Erickson, Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College and a founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI), had this to say about the use that particular word in official testimony:
While mounting evidence from Chinese doctrinal, service, technical, trade, and netizen publications suggests that China has been developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) since the 1990s, this is the first official confirmation that it has advanced to the stage of actual testing. This data point should dispel notions previously held by some that Beijing could not, or would not, develop an ASBM. (emphasis in original)
If Chinese ASBM capabilities interest you, you should do yourself a favor and check out Dr. Erickson’s related post in its entirety. He includes at the bottom of the post a useful list of relevant recent literature, some of which I was already familiar with, but that also contains some new items that I had not seen before. The motherlode!
I think that China’s rapid military modernization, particularly as focused on so-called asymmetric capabilities (sometimes also called anti-access weapons) like ASBMs, computer network operations (CNO; so-called “cyber” or computer hacking capabilities), and anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) could indeed be “game changers” in the Taiwan Strait. In fact, it is likely that I will focus on some aspect related to this in my master’s thesis.
During my first semester in graduate school in Taiwan, I wrote a short term paper that started off some lines of thinking on these asymmetric capabilities and their effect on Taiwan Strait security. A copy of the paper is here:
Latest in the “things I want to check out” category in Kaohsiung – an exhibit at the Kaohsiung Museum of History about the American presence in Southern Taiwan from 1950 – 1980. I am interested to see what kind of “footprint” there was here during that time, because I know that right now, the official U.S. presence is pretty small.
Here’s the press release from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT):
“American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan” Exhibit to Open at the Kaohsiung Museum of History from March 16 to July 4
PR-1017E | Date: 3/12/2010
In cooperation with the Kaohsiung Museum of History and the America Center located at National Sun Yat-sen University, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Kaohsiung Branch Office is pleased to present “American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan,” an unprecedented museum exhibition which will be shown at the Kaohsiung Museum of History from March 16 to July 4. An opening ceremony will be held on March 18 with the participation of AIT Director William Stanton, AIT Kaohsiung Branch Chief Christian Castro, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu and National Sun Yat-sen University President Yang Hong-dun.
The “American Footsteps in Southern Taiwan” exhibit features stories of U.S. interaction with southern Taiwan in a key era from 1950-80. Utilizing historic artifacts, photos, taped interviews and documentaries, the exhibition gives the audience a broad overview of the American cultural, social, military and religious presence in Kaohsiung and southern Taiwan during that period and the impressions Americans and local Taiwanese had of each other.
The items on display include a personal note written especially to commemorate this exhibition from U.S. Representative Lester Wolff (retired), one of the principal authors of the Taiwan Relations Act. Other unique items provide a rare glimpse into America’s multifaceted post-World War II economic assistance program in Taiwan. The exhibition also highlights a host of fascinating artifacts, photos and documents from the long-ago U.S. military presence in southern Taiwan.
The Kaohsiung Museum of History is also proud to put on display for this exhibit an especially significant item acquired for its permanent collection – an antique karaoke machine with 30 vinyl records left behind by the U.S. Military Consulting Corps. Decades later, the machine is still functioning well, and during the exhibition, it will play those vintage vinyl records to give visitors an authentic nostalgic sense of this unique and defining era in Taiwan-U.S. relations.
For further information about this exhibition, please visit the museum website:http://w5.kcg.gov.tw/khm.
I ran across this opinion piece while browsing at http://www.usmc.mil and couldn’t resist putting it up here. It speaks to the challenge that U.S. officials are going to have “selling” the proposed Guam buildup to the people of Guam and the friction that has been caused in the timeline for the project by the Japanese government’s decision to re-consider its 2005 agreement with the U.S. about relocating a Marine airbase on Okinawa and transferring several thousand American Marines from Okinawa to Guam (read more about it in my last post on the subject here).
I wonder how those Draft EIS public hearings on Guam went?
More Marines coming to Guam? Japan wants to make it official.
Posted: Jan 13, 2010 7:27 AM TSTUpdated: Jan 13, 2010 7:40 AM TST
by John Davis
Guam – New stories coming out of the Japan Media report Japan’s Social Democratic Party is pushing not just for the relocation of Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam, but also for the complete closure of the Futenma Air Base and relocation of at Least 2,000 additional military personnel and 3,000 dependents to Guam.
The Futenma Air Base is located in the center of Ginowan City, which lies just north of the Okinawan military base where the first surge of military personnel will come from during the Guam buildup. The Futenma Air Base covers 480 hectares or 1,200 acres, which makes up a quarter of land in Ginowan City. The 2006 plan negotiated between the United States government and the Japan government included relocating Marines from Okinawa to Guam and the closure of Futenma and it’s relocation to an existing Marine base called Camp Schwab, which lies a few hundred meters away from the current Futenma base location. Did you see this coming? I did.
Read the full article at KUAM.com: