STRATEGIC VISION Volume 4, Issue 19
for Taiwan Security w
Unmanned Maritime Vehicles Tobias Burgers
Beijingâ€™s Threat Perception Jens Kastner
PLA Naval Development Chang Han-ching
South China Sea Policy Charles Yang
Tuo Jiang Corvette Offers Options for Asymmetric Defense Ho Pei-sung
Volume 4, Issue 19
for Taiwan Security w
Contents PLA naval development and the impact on Taiwan.......................4
New corvette presents multiple defense options............................8
Unmanned vehiclesâ€™ potential for maritime defense.................... 14
World events affect Chinese threat perception............................ 20
Taipei needs SCS policy change vis-Ă -vis Beijing......................... 25
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Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu James Yuan Laurence Lin STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 4, Number 19, February, 2015, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: email@example.com. Or by telephone at: +866 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.mcsstw.org. © Copyright 2015 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.
From The Editor
he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers a happy Lunar New Year, and a very prosperous year of the goat. It is believed that the year of the goat is a period of gains and rewards that derive from diligent efforts and kind deeds, and it is with that hope that Strategic Vision is proud and excited to enter this, our fourth year of publication. We open our inaugural issue this year with an analysis by ROC Navy Captain Chang Han-ching, director of military theory at National Defense University’s War College, of the development of the People’s Liberation Army Navy and the impact this has for Taiwan. ROC Marine Colonel Ho Pei-sung, also a senior War College instructor, provides a thorough examination of the recently launched Tuo Jiang corvette, and how this new vessel opens up several avenues of opportunities for Taiwan’s asymmetric deterrence capabilities. Tobias Burgers of the Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science at the Free University Berlin, offers his take on how unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles would present a better value for money than submarines in Taiwan’s defense planning. Taipei-based journalist Jens Kastner returns with a look at how Chinese leaders’ threat perceptions are influenced by such diverse factors as dropping oil prices, Russia’s economic downturn, and Hong Kong’s umbrella movement. Finally, Dr. Charles Yang argues that the ROC needs a new South China Sea policy stance vis-à-vis cross-strait relations at a time when regional powers such as Vietnam and the Philippines are arming up to defend against Chinese maritime incursions. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you another year of the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Happy New Year! Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision
Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 19 (February, 2015)
PLA naval development and the impact on military annexation of Taiwan Chang Han-ching
A propaganda poster produced in 1977 by the government of the People’s Republic of China exhorts the people to struggle hard to build up a strong navy.
o understand the recent diversification in the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) development, it is necessary to go back to the viewpoints expressed in the memoirs of Admiral Liu Huaqing. Appointed chief of PLAN in 1982, Admiral Liu ascended the ranks on the heels of the Cultural Revolution; a time when the PRC
of the PLA. The primary reason for this change was that Deng Xiaoping, then China’s paramount leader, no longer believed that a large-scale world war would occur again. During the PLA’s second major military downsizing, in 1985, Liu proposed adopting a naval strategy centered around littoral defense. The strategic goal of
was just beginning to update its military thinking. The party changed the traditional homeland-defense strategic thinking of “mountain, disperse, bunker,” and it also started its first million-man downsizing
littoral defense differed from coastal defense in that it was an area-defense strategy aimed at implementing the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) national strategic guideline of “active defense.” The projected
Captain Chang Han-ching is a serving member in the ROC Navy and director of military theory at National Defense University’s War College. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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battle area was the second island chain, and the key concept was to “advance against advance.” This concept essentially holds that, when the enemy is attacking one’s coastal areas, one must attack his rear. This was an evolution of Mao Zedong’s famous dictum: “you fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.” In 1985, Admiral Liu pushed for several important changes which would modernize the role of the navy. In a major meeting initiated by the Chief of the General Staff in April of 1987, the heads of all the military offices came together to decide on the future role of the navy. It was unanimously decided that the PLAN would be relieved of its role of merely supporting the army and would become a strategic service in its own right.
Achieving goals Liu also wrote that the difference between the PLA’s naval strategy and Alfred Thayer Mahan’s oft-cited conception of sea power was that the latter addressed the requirements of outward expansion, while the PLA’s purpose was to effectively defend possible
threats from the sea and to safeguard the nation’s lawful maritime rights. Based on observations of current PLAN activities, the second island chain appears to have become the training area for PLAN’s routine
“The PLAN’s current amphibious capability allows it to transport up to 26,000 men using all of its 39 landing craft of various types.” annual long-distance voyages. Thus, the PLAN has realized the strategic goals set by Admiral Liu in 1985. In assessing whether the PRC’s naval buildup is sufficient to achieve its strategic goals, one must consider that, after the PLAN’s naval strategy gained approval from the PLA General Staff, leaders started planning and drafting important documents which would guide naval development. In one such document, which outlined equipment planning goals for year 2000, the drafters suggested that less sophisticated equipment should be de-emphasized in favor of developing new-generation weapons systems based
photo: China Defense Blog Liu Huaqing (saluting) is regarded as the father of the Chinese navy. An advocate of aquiring aircraft carriers, Liu envisioned a navy with global reach.
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on requirements for the modern combat realities of the late 1990s and early 21st century. On the issue of surface combatants, three major areas of focus were identified: destroyers, with displacement ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 tons; frigates, of 2,000 to 3,000-ton displacement; and smaller corvettes that could be used for littoral patrols, guided missile attacks, or anti-submarine operations, with a displacement of about 500 to 1,000 tons.
quite obvious that the PLAN has acquired the second island chain defensive capabilities and goals it set for itself: destroyers have full-load displacements of between 6,600 and 8,480 tons; frigates are between 1,440 and 4,400 tons displacement; and the nation’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has been
“The PLAN’s strategic goal must be to defend against potential threats from the United States around the second island chain.”
Regarding the development of aircraft carriers, the question was first raised in a 1985 naval strategy document, but due to the lack of funding and proper technology, the pre-manufacturing research was not feasible. The PLAN proposed to the CMC again in 1986 that research and building of a carrier could be started in 2000. Though the PLAN focused on developing nuclear submarines during that time due to the lack of sufficient funding and technology, the research and assessment of carriers had started during that time. As a result, judging from the current development of the PLAN’s modern warships, it is
commissioned into service, with two more carriers in development. All this development provides the PLAN with multiple options for offensive operations against Taiwan. The PLAN’s current amphibious capability allows it to transport up to 26,000 men using all of its 39 landing craft of various types. With two marine brigades totaling about 10,000 men, plus two more army amphibious mechanized infantry divisions, the PLA can carry out a limited landing operation. From the PRC’s perspective, the main challenge of annexing Taiwan is not having enough military strength, but how to
photo: Uwe Aranas The CNS Liaoning (CV-16) in a Dalian Shipyard. Liu’s dream was realized when China bought the hulk of the Ukrainian carrier Varyag and refurbished it.
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handle internal governance after taking over. During the era of former PRC President Hu Jintao, the PLA’s views on a Taiwan conflict emphasized the minimization of military and civilian casualties in Taiwan. Accordingly, the ideal operation would produce no casualties; the second-best option was to minimize military casualties; and the third option was to have no civilian casualties.
No real threat Following this thinking, if the PRC decides to use military force to achieve unification, citing an ostensible violation of the One China policy as justification, a maritime and air blockade, supported by intimidation with ballistic missiles, would likely be Beijing’s first priority. Raising the possibility of ballistic missile strikes would also serve as a warning to Japan and the United States not to intervene. The PLAN’s current overall development has created an irreversible imbalance across the Taiwan Strait. Due to the lack of domestic R&D capabilities of naval and
air force weapons systems, the limits imposed by the United States, the export-constraints on advanced weapons in other countries, and the obstacles for US weapons sales to Taiwan, the ROC Navy and Air Force pose no real threat to the PLA. Based on the above observations, the PLAN’s strategic goal must be to defend against potential threats from the United States around the second island chain. With respect to the physical distance, with the PLA’s current naval, air force, and ballistic missile capabilities, Beijing could achieve its goal of maintaining intimidation operations against Japan and Taiwan without the need for aircraft carriers. For the United States, if China breaks through the first island chain and extends its influence as far as the second island chain, the island of Midway represents the US Navy’s last line of defense in the West Pacific. If the PLAN breaks through Midway and Hawaii, the West Coast of the United States will be exposed to PLA threats, which is a condition that would be intolerable to Washington. As a result, compared to current US naval strength, the PLAN will not have enough capabilities to break into the waters east of Midway within the next 30 years. Policymakers in Taipei have to consider what else Taiwan can do in this situation. From a military perspective, they should adjust their military and strategic objectives, and stop regarding the PRC as the only threat. Rather, Taipei should include all countries that pose threats to its national sovereignty and maritime interests. Only then can the nation move past the current adverse situation. Then, it will be politically possible to adopt the best and only option: to negotiate with China to achieve the best interests of the people of Taiwan. For such negotiations, the buildup and planning of ROC national defense capabilities can be used as leverage. n
Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 19 (February, 2015)
Tuo Jiang corvette presents multiple options for asymmetric deterrence Ho Pei-sung
he Republic of China Navy (ROCN) received its first stealth catamaran, commissioned the Tuo Jiang, on December 23, 2014. Developed under the Hsun Hai (Swift Sea) project, the corvette has been dubbed a “carrier killer” because of its complement of eight Hsiung Feng III (HF3) supersonic anti-ship missiles (ASMs), and another eight Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) subsonic ASMs. Many praised its advanced design, hi-tech construction, superb maneuverability, high speed, and great overall performance during sea trials and a subsequent tactical exercise conducted on New Year’s Day, 2015. There remains a lot to be done, however, to make the
Hsun Hai project more fruitful. From an asymmetric deterrence perspective, augmenting the Tuo Jiang’s remote target-acquisition capability, building more of its kind, and developing variants are a few tasks of paramount importance. The ROC Ministry of National Defense (MND) has been advocating the importance of creative and asymmetric thinking in recent years in the face of continued military downsizing. The basic concept is about fighting smart instead of trying to counter a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) offensive head-on. However, since the PLA Navy (PLAN) is commissioning greater numbers of larger, more advanced,
photo: Youth Daily The recently launched Tuo Jiang-class of corvette represents an extension of the ROC military’s creative and asymmetric thinking in recent years.
Colonel Ho Pei-sung is a serving member of the ROC Marine Corps and a senior instructor at the War College of the ROC National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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photo: Youth Daily News Yen Ming, then ROC minister of defense (left), receives a model of the Tuo Jiang from Lung Teh Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. President Sheldon Huang.
and capable surface combatants such as the Liaoning aircraft carrier and Aegis-type destroyers, Taiwan has no other option but to develop an asymmetric deterrence such as the fast, stealthy, supersonicASM-laden Tuo Jiang corvette. Just like the biblical showdown between the smaller David and the massive Goliath, the Tuo Jiang corvette, armed with potent HF-3 ASMs, just might be the ROCN’s “sling and stone,” capable of inflicting significant damage against the PLAN’s major warships—anything short of an aircraft carrier, at least.
Otobreda 76mm gun, a phalanx Close-In Weapon System, a pair of 12.7mm machine guns, and two Mark 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (Mk 32 SVTT). The Tuo Jiang has a price tag of about US$72.39 million, and the ROCN is currently planning to outfit the fleet with between eight and 12 ships of the class.
Packing a punch
The Tuo Jiang can be viewed as an asymmetric platform due to a number of factors. First, it carries awe-
Based on media reports and the technical specifications released by the MND, the Tuo Jiang is about 60 meters in length, has a 14-meter beam, displaces 500 tons, and has a top speed of 38 knots. Its eight HF-2 subsonic ASMs and an equal number of HF-3 supersonic ASMs allow the Tuo Jiang to pack a powerful punch for its size. It is also equipped with an
some firepower. The 16 ASMs on board have a range of well over 100 kilometers, and are all a fire-andforget type of smart missile. In addition, the supersonic HF-3 and the subsonic HF-2 ASMs can be used in combination to better penetrate the enemy fleet’s close-in defense systems and score hits. Limited by the curvature of the earth, however, the Tuo Jiang’s
“Offensive capability could be fully realized by integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with ISR and targeting capabilities into the system.”
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photo: Youth Daily News An ROC Navy line handler secures a bow line to a bollard while mooring the corvette Tuo Jiang. The ship carries eight HF-3 supersonic anti-ship missiles.
onboard radar system can only detect surface targets within 20 to 30 km; it is obvious that the Tuo Jiang needs additional targeting information to fully utilize the 100-plus km ranges of the HF-2 and HF-3. Analysts have noted that the ROC Military’s longrange intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets and networks might be sabotaged, attacked, or otherwise neutralized at the beginning of an armed conflict with China. Nevertheless, as long as the Tuo Jiang can obtain actionable targeting information, no matter whether it’s from onboard remote sensing systems or from other sources, it could still launch its missiles to attack over-the-horizon (OTH) targets. Therefore it is crucial for the Tuo Jiang to have good communication and additional targetacquisition capabilities. The Tuo Jiang’s offensive capability could be fully realized by integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with ISR and targeting capabilities into the system. Although its deck is too small to support helicopter operations, the ship could easily support
medium-sized UAVs. If the ROC Navy does outfit the Tuo Jiang with UAVs, it will represent an even more potent threat to the PLA.
Persistent threat Second, the Tuo Jiang corvette is going to be a persistent threat to the PLAN. The corvette is only 60 meters long, so it is indeed a small target when compared to the ROCN’s other surface combatants. Its design is also meant to reduce the ship’s radar crosssection (RCS) signature, so it will appear to be a much smaller target, and therefore even more difficult to kill. In addition, since it has a mere 2.3 meters draught and uses water-jet propulsion, it can maneuver freely in coastal waters and hide in fishing ports or among small offshore islets, so the PLA will have a hard time locating and hitting it. Size always matters. A single corvette equipped with multiple ASMs like the Tuo Jiang is very useful in combat, but it might not be enough to pose a high
Carrier Killer b 11
degree of deterrence against the PLAN. However, a squadron of eight to 12 (or more) of its kind will undoubtedly present a serious threat to an invading fleet—the sheer number of missiles they carry will do the trick. Besides, if more such corvettes are made available, together with the existing 30-plus 180-ton Kuang Hua VI missile boats (also known as the Fast Attack Craft, Guided missile, or FACG) equipped with four HF-2 ASMs, the ROCN could adopt a limited access-denial approach by strategically dispersing the Tuo Jiang corvettes and the FACGs to littoral areas to evade PLA saturation attacks, and later to re-emerge and ambush any PLAN warships within range. A more controversial approach would be for the corvettes and FACGs to blend in with the busy maritime traffic in the Taiwan Strait, and launch surprise attacks against PLA targets from there. The above scenarios are both realistic and feasible, and should give the PLAN something to think about when considering an invasion. However, for such tactics to be effective, greater numbers of the Tuo Jiang-class corvette must be made available. Third, the Tuo Jiang is a versatile platform with
great potential, and more variants can be developed to form a complete family of corvettes capable of a variety of different missions. A good example of such a development concept is the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which has interchangeable mission modules enabling the LCS to conduct different missions with the same hull. Even though the Tuo Jiang might not be suitable for LCS-type modular architecture, different variants using the same platform should be possible.
Enhancing defenses According to media reports, the ROCN and the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology are working together to put the indigenous Tien Chien II (Sky Sword 2) missiles onboard the Tuo Jiang to enhance its defenses against attack by aircraft. Similar concepts could also be applied to the Hsiung Feng IIE (HF-2E) land-attack cruise missile (LACM) that has a range of approximately 600 km. If the Tuo Jiang is equipped with HF-2Es, it will be able to strike inland targets deep inside China from various locations, and
photo: ROC MND The Hsiung Feng III, or Brave Wind III, is a Mach 2 supersonic anti-ship missile designed to target PLAN surface vessels, including its new aircraft carrier.
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photo: ROC MND ROC Marines simulate a landing. The stealthy Tuo Jiang could be retrofitted to insert special operation force (SOF) teams close to an enemy’s coastline.
can therefore offer a strategic deterrent capability. Of course, since the corvette has limited space, some of the existing ASMs would need to be removed to make room for different missiles. Another possibility is a mine countermeasure (MCM) variant. Since the Tuo Jiang is basically an aluminum structure, it will not detonate magnetic mines and can therefore serve as a serviceable MCM platform.
Yet another possibility is development of a specialoperations-capable (SOC) variant that could be used to insert special operation force (SOF) teams close to an enemy’s coastline. The Tuo Jiang has a low RCS signature and is roughly the size of a fishing boat; it could be modified to carry several combat rubber raiding crafts (CRRCs) or underwater vehicles and a dozen or so frogmen to serve as a stealthy, long-
photo: Youth Daily News The Tuo Jiang is designed for a maximum speed of 38 knots, but reached 44 knots in recent sea trials, according to her captain, Lt. Cmdr. Wang Te-jean.
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range, high-speed transport for SOF teams conducting intelligence-gathering or direct-action missions. Such special forces teams, riding in CRRCs or using underwater vehicles, could then be released from the corvette as close to the enemy’s coastline as possible. This approach would greatly increase the probability of mission success because the SOF teams are much closer to their objective, greatly shortening the response time available to the enemy. As a result, such a combination of an SOF-capable Tuo Jiang variant, and SOF teams, would generate considerable deterrence, and force the PLA to station more troops along its coastline and around key installations. It could therefore help reduce the strength of an invasion force.
Remote targeting lacking To aggressively take advantage of the numerous possibilities represented by the Tuo Jiang corvette, the ROCN should first consider augmenting the Tuo Jiang’s remote target-acquisition capability. Remote targeting and sensing systems such as UAVs could be integrated into the Tuo Jiang’s system of sensors
to strengthen its unassisted target-acquisition capability. By so doing, its missiles could be fired at OTH targets. In addition, more ships in the Tuo Jiang-class should be built. The ROCN is unlikely to gain comprehensive sea control in surrounding waters in a war with China, but a degree of access denial in littoral areas is feasible with enough Tuo Jiang corvettes and FACGs. Unfortunately, the planned-for eight to 12 such corvettes might not be sufficient. Finally, different mission-oriented variants should be developed. The Tuo Jiang is a very good potential platform for a wider range of missions. Variants carrying anti-ship missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, land-attack cruise missiles, or SOF teams all present unique deterrence effects. Though progress so far has been encouraging, the Tuo Jiang remains just a prototype, and various tests and evaluations are still needed. Some modifications, or even alterations, to the original design might be necessary. Related doctrines and tactics need to be developed, verified, and practiced. In short, there is still a lot to be done to make the Tuo Jiang a true asymmetric deterrence, but the outlook is very promising. n
photo: Youth Daily News A flag-raising ceremony aboard Taiwan’s first locally designed stealth missile corvette, which is expected to enhance the Navy’s anti-ship capabilities.
photo: Peter Lewis A member of an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) detachment with US Navy CTG 56.1 operates a UUV lift during a training exercise in Bahrain.
Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 19 (February, 2015)
Push-Button Defense Unmanned maritime vehicles present better value for money than submarines Tobias Burgers
n recent years, much discussion has taken place within the military, security, political, and academic communities in Taiwan about the need for locally built weapons systems. Much of the reason for this discussion stems from the question of how to deal with the decreasing political appetite of the United States to keep selling weapons systems to the Republic of China (ROC). According to the
increasing Chinese protests and threats, US leaders have shown an increased reluctance to sell advanced weapons systems to Taiwan. Indeed, the procurement of the F16C/D seems to have been forestalled for the indefinite future.
1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is bound by law to “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character.” In recent years, however, in the light of
Not being able to update, enhance, or acquire new weapons systems, the ROC armed forces have subsequently seen their overall defense capabilities de-
Tobias Burgers is a doctoral candidate at the Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science, Free University Berlin, and is currently a research intern at the Center for Security Studies, NCCU. His research focuses primarily on cyber and robotic warfare. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unmanned Maritime Vehicles b 15
crease in the last few years. In comparison, China has spent the past decade boosting its military budget significantly, and is actively pursuing a blue-wa-
“Taiwan already possesses a highly developed technological industry that will be capable of developing unmanned systems—both on and below the waves—within a short time frame.” ter navy with the goal of operating beyond the first island chain. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also aims to have the military capability to launch a successful amphibious invasion of Taiwan by 2020. While such an invasion seems unlikely now, it is nevertheless imperative that the ROC armed forces have the capability to deter such a scenario. As such, the development and procurement of new submarines seems a logical choice. They seem at first glance an
ideal deterrent against an invasion fleet. Yet, while the submarine option is an attractive one, it is not without a number of serious drawbacks. From a development perspective, the indigenous development of large, manned submarines will most likely take 10 years or more. The required technical knowhow to build submarines is currently not available in Taiwan and as such would need to be acquired from scratch. Outside support would only come from US defense contractors, who have not had any meaningful experience in building diesel submarines in recent decades.
Some training required Furthermore, the example of the submarines recently acquired by the Vietnamese navy shows that simply having the platforms does not automatically translate into being able to use them effectively. Considerable time is needed to train crews to operate new sys-
photo: Richard Child The US Navy tests an unmanned underwater vehicle in a recent naval exercise. This emerging technology holds much promise for ROC defense forces.
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photo: Joshua Nuzzo The US Navy, in conjunction with Spatial Integrated Systems Inc., holds a demonstration of a fully autonomous unmanned surface vehicle.
tems; this is especially true for such complex vessels as submarines. In light of these drawbacks, the Taiwan defense and political establishment should look beyond this conventional system and focus instead on what it has excelled at over the past decade: developing asymmetrical approaches to the growing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait. Translated to the maritime realm, this means developing and pursuing unmanned maritime systems.
Second, US defense contractors are leading the unmanned revolution in military affairs and as such have the knowledge, experience, and skill needed to successfully develop Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs). Third, a cross-over use of UAV technology—which Taiwan already possesses—could be possible, further speeding the development process. Fourth, Taiwan already has experience developing fast missile patrol craft such as the Ching Chiang and Kuang Hua VI-class ships. Existing expertise Although these ships would be photo: Xuan Shi-sheng slightly larger than USVs, they T-75S 20mm Cannon mounted on the ROC ship FACG-77 Unmanned systems would be could serve as a basis for future less limited by the constraints cited above. First, from development, particularly the stealthy Kuang Hua a production standpoint, Taiwan already possesses VI—a rather recent development whose size makes a highly developed technological industry that will it ideal for conversion to unmanned operation. Fifth, be capable of developing unmanned systems—both the training period required for effectively deploying on and below the waves—within a short time frame. unmanned maritime systems would be significantly
Unmanned Maritime Vehicles b 17
less as well, as it requires less manpower and therefore fewer training man-hours. As such, the development of UUVs and USVs would not only be a more realistic option with a greater chance of success, but it could also be accomplished in a much shorter time frame. With the defense spending gap currently at 13 to 1 in favor of China, time is not a luxury that Taiwan currently enjoys. Economic reasons favor the development of unmanned systems as well: With an overall defense budget of about US$10 billion, the question arises: how much can be spent on developing and acquiring new submarines?
Expensive price tag With an estimated development cost of somewhere between US$500 million and US$1 billion, each submarine would eat away five to 10 percent of the annual defense budget. The development and procurement
of small UUVs and USVs would be significantly less. Transforming manned vessels into unmanned ones would be relatively inexpensive. As such, the ROC Navy (ROCN) should seek to procure more Kuang
“It is likely that the next generation of UUVs will be able to remain submerged for months at a time, making it increasingly difficult for the PLAN to keep track of them.” Hua VI, Ching Chiang, and Hsun Hai -class ships, albeit in unmanned configurations. The fast missile boats have already demonstrated their value, are cheaper to procure than conventional submarines, and their unmanned variants would be cheaper to operate. Taking into consideration the limitations of Taiwan’s defense budget, this option would be advantageous as it would provide better value for the money and a greater number of vessels. Furthermore,
photo: Chelsea Mandello Marines approach the well deck of amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga after conducting open ocean operations using Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.
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photo: Smuconlaw A Protector Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) belonging to the Republic of Singapore Navy is on display at the National Museum of Singapore.
it would fit in with the emerging global trend of seeking to develop high-quantity, lower-quality systems as opposed to few highly-developed and expensive systems. Indeed, four highly expensive submarines would be prime targets should a shooting war break out. As such, the navy would need to hide and defend the submarines, rather than using them in an offensive role. Utilizing a larger number of unmanned systems would enable Taiwan to avoid this problem.
Power in numbers
gressive operations and strategies than would be possible in any submarine scenario, particularly if the corvettes were armed with Hsiung Feng III missiles. With zero risk of loss of human life, an entirely
“Taiwan’s defense establishment should not seek to develop costly submarines, but should rather seek asymmetrical methods of countering the coming Chinese naval dominance of the Taiwan Strait.”
The greatest benefit of smaller unmanned systems over large submarines can be found in the operational perspective. First, in naval affairs, power is
new scenario of operations opens up. Furthermore, their lower per-unit cost makes them relatively easy
still invested in numbers, not in the complexity of a few systems that can be deployed. In the age of naval robotics, this translates into a strategy which the ROCN would deploy numerous small, stealthy, and cheap systems; smaller versions of the Tuo Jiang corvettes, for example (see related story on page 8). Such systems could be deployed for far more ag-
to replace. These arguments hold even more value for UUVs. First, UUVs will be even smaller in size than USVs, making it very difficult to detect them, especially since the PLAN currently possesses only limited antisubmarine warfare capabilities. Second, UUVs can remain underwater much longer than their manned
Unmanned Maritime Vehicles b 19
equivalents. It is likely that the next generation of UUVs will be able to remain submerged for months at a time, making it increasingly difficult for the PLAN to keep track of them—if they can discover them at all. These advantages could best be maximized if the ROCN deploys the UUVs and USVs in swarming strategies: Current research within the US naval es-
versary. The unique benefit of swarm tactics is that one can sacrifice some assets for the greater good of the overall mission. In the past decade, the ROC defense establishment has illustrated that it is highly capable and innovative in seeking methods to maintain its defense posture. Its asymmetrical approach to a possible ChinaTaiwan conflict not only illustrates those skills, but
tablishment and affiliated institutions has shown the clear advantages of using unmanned systems. Without human operators, these assets can be sent on more dangerous missions—even what would otherwise be considered suicide missions—greatly increasing the range of offensive options. Collectively, swarms of robotic systems have the potential for an even more dramatic, disruptive change to military operations. Swarms of robotic systems can bring greater mass, coordination, intelligence, and speed to the battlefield, enhancing the ability of warfighters to gain a decisive advantage over an ad-
shows that the organization is capable of thinking outside the box. These solutions might seem unorthodox at first, but will prove valuable in the long term. Therefore Taiwan’s defense establishment should not seek to develop costly submarines, but should rather seek asymmetrical methods of countering the coming Chinese naval dominance of the Taiwan Strait. It should do so by acquiring large numbers of robotic vessels and developing effective swarm tactics. The limitations of the robotic military revolution are few, and it would greatly benefit Taiwan’s defense planners to follow this approach sooner rather than later. n
photo: Peter Lewis A sailor with a UUV detachment with US Navy CTG 56.1 uses a hook to guide a UUV for recovery during a training exercise in Bahrain.
Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 19 (February, 2015)
Threat Perceptions World geopolitical events factor into Chinese leaders’ perception of threat Jens Kastner
photo: www.kremlin.ru The worst threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin in his 15 years in power, Russia’s ongoing economic crisis is blamed by some on US-Saudi collusion.
he year 2014 brought developments that have subtly made Taiwan safer by decreasing the likelihood of China abruptly coming too close for comfort. These developments must have shaped the Chinese government’s threat perceptions—a major driving force in any political decisionmaking—so that Taiwan now looks even less
Vladimir Putin in his 15 years in power. The crash of the Russian ruble was partly caused by Western sanctions targeting Russia over its actions in the Ukraine, partly by record-low global oil prices primarily resulting from Saudi Arabia trying to put an end to competing shale gas production in the United States, and partly on Putin’s complete failure to timely wean
to them like an appetizing chunk just waiting to be swallowed. The first development was Russia’s ongoing economic crisis; the worst threat to Russian President
the country’s economy off its reliance on the export of natural resources like gas and oil. In China, these loosely related issues are widely perceived as being much less coincidentally con-
Jens Kastner is a Taipei-based journalist whose work has appeared in the Economist Intelligence Unit, Asia Sentinel, and Taiwan Review. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
Chinese Threat Perception b 21
nected. A school of thought often expressed in recent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, an outspoweeks on Chinese Internet forums is that the Russian ken US adversary, holds firmly to this theory, as maneconomic crash was a direct result of a conspiracy ifested by furious statements he made at the end of between America and Saudi the year. Venezuela is estimated Arabia. The plot, according to have the largest oil reserves to a widely held view among in the world, but the country Chinese netizens, was designed has nonetheless entered a reto kill two birds with one stone, cession, owing to the low global and is ostensibly evidenced by oil prices. As of late December, Saudi Arabia having ignored the annual inflation rate in the pleas to lower its oil produccountry reached a whopping tion levels amid a supply glut. 63 percent. The resulting low oil prices are seen as weakening both Putin Losing big money and Iran, and are suspected of being deliberate reprisal—the It is no secret that Putin has former over the Ukraine, the lately been finding himself Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro latter over its nuclear stance. surrounded by a lot of very inThe perception emerged of a highly effective yet exfluential Russians who give him an earful because tremely subtle and surprising economic aggression they are losing big money as an indirect result of his crafted by Washington and its allies in the House of Ukraine crusade, which is becoming a lot more exSaud to rein in their enemies. pensive than originally expected. In an example of
photo: Chad McNeeley US Ambassador James Smith and Admiral Mike Mullen meet with Saudi Arabian Assistant Minister of Defense and Aviation Prince Khalid bin Sultan.
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what economic damage evaporating trust between two countries’ business elites can cause even without their respective governments bombarding each other with official sanctions, by the close of 2014, more than one-third of German companies with operations in Russia were reportedly likely to cancel their investment projects, costing Russia precious foreign direct investment. On the long list of German firms reportedly scaling down their Russian operations are chemical giant BASF SE, carmakers Adam Opel AG and Volkswagen Group, and the health-care company Fresenius SE & Co KGaA. Meanwhile, countless German-Russian forums for partnership like major political gatherings have either been cut back or frozen.
China taking note It almost goes without saying that this situation has been taken note of not only by the people of Russia and the West, but also by the upper echelons of power in Beijing, and these Chinese leaders have begun altering their threat perceptions. It is safe to
assume that these upper echelons now feel significantly less convinced that, in a bid to annex Taiwan, they could easily stave off innovative US-led international countermeasures. These leaders are now most likely aware that such countermeasures may
“Leaders in Taipei would be well advised to maneuver in a way that reassures American, Japanese, and even Hong Kong friends that Taiwan will stand up to threatening overtures from the PRC.” look toothless at first, but could nonetheless end up putting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under immense pressure by China’s capitalist oligarchy that feeds it. Moreover, such economic countermeasures would not necessarily have to do with energy; it is not inconceivable, for example, that certain provisions under the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership or the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union could cost China dearly.
photo: VOA The 12th National People’s Congress held in 2013. Leaders in the People’s Republic of China will be altering their threat perceptions based on world events.
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At the end of the day, the Russian crisis may have a similar effect on Chinese threat perceptions as the US-led precision airstrikes on Serbia and Iraq did at the turn of the millennium. The impressive display of coalition forces’ superior military technology and military planning arguably also helped deter the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from contemplating moves against Taiwan. The second development that has no doubt shaped Chinese threat perceptions in favor of Taiwan’s security was the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. Obviously, the CCP and its political friends in the Special photo: Pasu Au Yeung Administrative Region The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong certainly contributed to a re-evaluation of Beijing’s threat perception. have been handling the actual protests rather well, as evidenced by the fact wide interference by hostile intelligence agencies, that the ignition of a major anti-CCP spark failed to with both forces aiming for the eventual toppling materialize, and international criticism targeting the of the CCP. The often passionate warnings by CCP leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong was muted. officials—including those by President Xi Jinping himself—against such chimerical foreign interference Base for subversion may, to the outside observer, seem either overblown or deceptive, or both. It is worth remembering, howIt is also clear, however, that China’s leaders now ever, that there are a number of common beliefs that fear that the former British colony is well on its way find widespread acceptance in China—often withto becoming a hard-to-control base for subversion, out being disabused by the PRC government whose empowering the pro-democracy movement in mainaims they serve—that outside stakeholders would, land China and even facilitating clandestine nationat most, consider a stretch. Among these are that
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underground churches are conspiring to blow up the Three Gorges Dam; that NATO ground troops invaded Afghanistan only to prepare for an invasion of East Turkestan, or Xinjiang province; and that the people of Japan are continually plotting to retake control of Taiwan.
Differences of opinion Given that China’s decisionmakers are now racking their brains over how to prevent Hong Kong’s proud, vibrant, and inherently anti-communist civil society from pounding another nail into the CCP’s own coffin, forces such as the Umbrella Movement lend credence to the belief that Taiwan’s unruly civil society, academic freedom, and media independence are assets that serve to make Taiwan a safer place. It is not surprising, then, that commentary by certain CCPfriendly media outlets in Taiwan often goes to great lengths to portray these hallmark features as something detrimental, not beneficial, to Taiwan’s safety. Leaders in Taipei would be well advised to maneu-
ver in a way that reassures American, Japanese, and even Hong Kong friends that Taiwan will stand up to threatening overtures from the PRC. Indeed, an event on the first day of the new year suggested that the Taiwanese intend to represent themselves, and not let the image of the Republic of China (ROC) be forgotten. On January 1, 2015, the ROC flag was flown at the Twin Oaks Estate—the residence of Taipei’s representative in Washington, D.C.—for the first time in the 36 years since the United States switched diplomatic recognition from the ROC to the People’s Republic. Although the US State Department quickly and vehemently pleaded ignorance, it nonetheless must have looked to the Chinese as though Washington had allowed, if not encouraged, the flag raising. This in turn must have left some impact on Chinese threat perceptions, because there is little that Beijing dreads more than the prospect of Washington tinkering with its Taiwan policy. To the wise ROC officials in charge of cross-strait relations, this newly-altered Chinese threat perception may supply Taipei with handy ammunition for the negotiating table. n
photo: dbking The Twin Oaks Estate in Washington, DC, where on January 1, 2015, the ROC flag was raised for the first time since Taipei was de-recognized in 1979.
Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 19 (February, 2015)
Falling into Step
Taipei needs SCS policy change as regional powers arm to defend against China Charles Yang
photo: Myles Cullen A PLA honor guard company on parade. As nations in the region push back against Chinese aggression, Taipei should be less antagonistic toward China.
ross-Strait relations constitute a unique relationship for Taiwan. Although relations with China are often challenging, there is also opportunity in this relationship, especially as regards developments in the South China Sea. Recently, some Taiwan scholars, such as John Chao of National Chengchi University in Taipei, have begun to argue that Taiwan should balance its relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This is especially true since many of America’s Asian allies are taking a harder security policy against China. If Taiwan does not maintain a flexible and balanced policy between the two regional hegemons, it could jeopardize its improved relations
Japan has been at the forefront of this development. Following the argument over nationalization of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands on September 11, 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a historic step away from Japan’s post-war pacifism.
with the PRC and sacrifice potential future benefits. A number of Asian countries have begun to take a more strident military posture toward China, and
tion guidelines, for the first time in nearly two decades, to enable Tokyo to help defend allied countries who come under armed attack. Despite this military
Japanese reorientation In July 2014, the Japanese government reinterpreted its constitution’s Article 9, which outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes, and ended a ban that has kept its military from fighting abroad since the end of World War II. Following this, Japan and the United States updated their defense coopera-
Dr. Charles Yang is a graduate of National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development. He specializes in the political-economic development of China and US-PRC-ROC relations. He served in the ROC Marines from 2000 to 2002. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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reorientation, Abe has actively sought opportunities to meet with high-level PRC leaders for economic talks. He actively sought to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan, Italy in October 2014. China also faces a number of challenges deriving from territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In 2011, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III described the PRC’s actions in Reed Bank (Liyue Tan Shoal) as “a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty.” In recent years, the Philippine military has been improving its capabilities with the help of American and Japanese assistance. Although some observers have maintained a degree of skepticism toward Aquino’s goal of upgrading the nation’s armed forces, his national defense budget went from US$2.8 million in 2014 to US$3.3 million in 2015. This constitutes a 17.3 percent increase in military spending in 2014.
Philippine military modernization Not long after the Reed Bank incident, the Philippines purchased a second-hand Hamilton-class cutter from
the United States. This cutter, rechristened the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, was deployed during a subsequent incident in the waters surrounding the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, Panatag Shoal) in 2012. The Philippines has now embarked on a 15-year, US$2 billion modernization program to improve its capability
“While the Philippines and Vietnam do challenge the PRC’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, they also seek to maintain a strong economic relationship with that country.” to defend its maritime borders. Manila aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters, and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea. Coastal radar installations will also be supplied by the United States. Vietnam is a very capable actor in the South China Sea and has likewise been focused on defense investment for its air and naval forces. Hanoi’s purchase of six Russian-built Kilo-class diesel submarines represents the greatest threat to China’s naval operations in the South China Sea. The first such boat, the HQ-
photo: Jacob Kirk US Pacific Commander, Admiral Locklear III meets with Assistant Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gao Jin at the 2014 Chief of Defense Conference.
SCS Policy b 27
182 Hanoi, successfully conducted its maiden voyage on January 8, 2014. The second vessel, the HQ183 Ho Chi Minh City, docked at Cam Ranh Bay on March 19, 2014. The third, the HQ184 Hai Phong, was received on December 10, 2014. Two more will be delivered in 2015, and the last in 2016. Moreover, Vietnam’s air force currently operates a dozen SU-27s
tionship with that country. China is the Philippine’s third-largest trading partner, and Manila does not want to jeopardize the economic dimension of this relationship. In 2011, President Aquino paid a state visit to the PRC with a large business delegation to strengthen reciprocal investment, trade, and tourism opportunities. These efforts sought to build upon the
photo: jon218 The Russian Kilo-class submarine is a popular purchase not only by the Chinese Navy, but by their adversary in the South China Sea, Vietnam, as well.
and 42 SU-30s, with 12 more on order. All of these fighters are configured for anti-ship and maritime operations. Hanoi is also considering the acquisition of Su-34 strike fighters. In addition, Hanoi’s missile force includes 40 shorebased Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles, and it has negotiated the licensing for domestic production of three classes of ship-to-ship missiles. Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, said that his country would welcome the chance to buy an unspecified number of Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare planes and set up a comprehensive partnership with the United States. Washington has partially lifted the arms embargo against Vietnam, and initial sales are likely to help Hanoi deal with growing naval challenges from the PRC. While the Philippines and Vietnam do challenge the PRC’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, they also seek to maintain a strong economic rela-
Joint Action Plan for Strategic Cooperation, signed October 29, 2009, as well as the Philippine-China Five-Year Development Program for Trade and Economic Cooperation. Likewise, Vietnam is seeking to assuage China over its growing cooperation with the United States. Soon after meeting with US civilian and military leaders, Hanoi sent a senior Politburo member to Beijing to try to repair damaged ties between the communist neighbors.
Difficult balancing act These countries face a difficult balancing act between strengthening their militaries against PRC aggression and fostering good economic relations with China. This balancing act leaves them open to economic retaliation and marginalization by Beijing. Smaller economies such as Vietnam and the Philippines can ill afford to face ostracism by such an economic pow-
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er. Conversely, the PRC’s massive and diversified economy could easily weather the storm if its relations with either Vietnam or the Philippines were to sour.
Complex relations Meanwhile in Taiwan, the official policies of the Republic of China (ROC) government toward the PRC have generally followed a similar path to those of Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Taipei strongly endeavors to maintain the preferential treatment that Taiwan-based businesses receive in the PRC, however. This provides growing dividends to the Taiwan economy and gives Taiwan businessmen a leg up over other competition in the Chinese market. Clearly, Taiwan has much economic incentive to maintain friendly relations with China. The political relationship between Taiwan and China is more complex. During the ROC’s 103rd Double Tenth National Day celebrations this past October, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou delivered a
speech titled “Proud of Our Democracy, Proud of Taiwan” in which he urged China to move toward a constitutional democracy, and had some encouraging words to say about the Occupy Central Movement taking place in Hong Kong. These statements sparked lively discussion in Taiwan, raising questions over how closely Taiwan should align itself with either the United States or China.
“Both the ROC and PRC take similar positions on the South China Sea, as well as on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute in the East China Sea.” ROC Military spokesman have often expressed a hawkish view of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) while failing to fully appreciate the threats posed by other military developments in the region. In October of 2014, Lee Hsiang-chou, the director general of the ROC National Security Bureau, briefed the Legislative Yuan on PLA operations and developments in the
photo: TC Lin ROC C-130 cargo planes make resupply runs to Taiping Island, putting them in dangerous proximity to jet fighters of an increasingly assertive China.
SCS Policy b 29
South China Sea. When asked about potential threats to ROC interests in the area, his only remark was that he was worried that the ROC military’s C-130 cargo planes are now in range of Chinese jet fighters. In December, then Deputy Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng suggested that Taiwanese aircraft approaching Taiping Island would not be threatened even if Vietnam deploys the missiles on nearby Sand Cay (Dunqian Shazhou, Son Ca Island). The military buildup by Vietnam and the Philippines is also threatening to the ROC’s claims and position in the South China Sea. Strangely, however, risk assessments regarding this growing military challenge are quite different between the ROC government and academic observers. Government leaders and
According to statements made by President Ma, Vietnam is unlikely to attack Taiwan’s military facility on Taiping Island. However, in contradiction to Ma’s statements, a report published by the ROC
analysts typically overemphasize the threat from the PRC when discussing territorial disputes between the ROC, PRC, and other claimants. The fact that both the ROC and PRC take similar positions on the South China Sea, as well as on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute in the East China Sea, does not seem to factor into their thinking.
Itu Aba. While the president’s diplomatic language may be reassuring, it does little to alter the fact that Vietnam poses a serious security threat to Taiwan’s only military base in the South China Sea. In contrast to the official line, some scholars have begun to voice a different view on Taiwan’s security needs. Andrew Yang, former ROC defense minister,
“It appears that the United States is taking sides by objecting to China’s claims and policies in the South China Sea.” Ministry of National Defense noted that Vietnam’s deployment of mobile missiles and artillery guns on neighboring island bases could pose a threat to Taiwan’s military outpost on Taiping, also known as
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Not long after, on December 5, 2014, the US State Department released a report on China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea in which it opined that the nine-dashed line, on which China’s claims are predicated, would not pass any legal test. In view of these statements, it appears that the United States is taking sides by objecting to China’s claims and policies in the South China Sea.
Implications for ROC Although these statements and actions appear primarily directed against the PRC, they do have important implications for the ROC as well. The PRC essentially makes the same claims in the South China Sea that ROC cartographers originally demarcated in 1947. Furthermore, the ROC has not renounced its claims to this territory, and it has vital economic and strategic interMap of the South China Sea Islands, produced by the ROC Ministry of the Interior in 1947. ests in the region. has argued that America’s allies in Asia are essentially It might be time for the ROC to adjust its relations its agents of contention against the PRC. ROC scholar with the United States and the PRC, at least on issues John Chao, meanwhile, believes that America is sacrelating to the South China Sea. Ma has stressed that rificing the ROC’s interests in its pivot to Asia. This the ROC’s position on the South China Sea had not is pushing some Taiwanese observers to question changed since 1947, suggesting that Taiwan will not whether Taiwan can stand up for its own interests. abandon the so-called nine-dash line as its South At a recent international security forum in Taipei, China Sea claim. William Stanton, former director of the Taipei Office ROC officials should modify current policies to of the American Institute in Taiwan, urged the ROC better fit with current cross-strait realities. Future to stop using the maritime demarcation line which policies should be less antagonistic toward China, encompasses the disputed Spratly Islands, Paracel and seek to foster cooperation where possible. In this Islands, Macclesfield Bank, and Pratas Islands as well way, Taiwan will have better flexibility to meet future as their surrounding waters in the South China Sea. challenges in the South China Sea. n
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Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...
Published on Feb 15, 2015
Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...