The ROC Airforce Marshal speaks out on (against) the infamous arms procurement

Usually, one can only speak one's own mind when there is no other constraint or conflict of interests, e.g. serving in the governemnt. The Taiwan (ROC) Airforce Marshal Lee Kui-yong did exactly that when he retired from his position.

The government's view (whether DPP or KMT) has always been supportive of the "arms procurement", despite the obvious logical flaw and the over-price of the deal, for pleasing a strategic ally (or in Lee Teng-hui word, paying for protection fee).

Marshal Lee's view is in line of what I disucussed years ago.

  • submarines are useless in Taiwan Strait
  • PAC is not practical because there are too many missiles that the mainland can produced much cheaply

He added that even the F-16 is too costly and makes not much sense (which I would also agree). He suggests developing (electronic) interfering technology, which does make a lot of sense.

I have to believe that marshal Lee must have told Chen Shui-bian about. I can even be convinced that Mr Chen Shui-bian agreed with him and his secret plan (which I postulated before and now seems supported) is to leave this dirty mess to MYJ.

On strategy, he tactfully disagreed with the "proactive defense" doctrine, by saying that it might apply for powers such as the US, but for Taiwan, perhaps the best way to defend is just simply defense (i.e., not attack) -- something quite straighforward, but often got muddled by some wisers.

Of course, this draws categorical denial/disagreement from the KMT government in public, and maybe on in public.


前空軍作戰司令反對軍購 國防部:個人發言

* 2008-07-21
* 今日晚報
* 【中時電子報戴志揚/台北報導】








Anonymous said...

Taiwan defense strategy shifted from defense to proactive defense due to the unbalance of corss-strait military power. We called "proactive defense" as "刺蝟戰術" internally. This strategy is to give PRC the damages as much as possible if PRC go for war so that PRC can evaluate the cost & benefit of starting a war.

As a discharged TW navy officer, I disagreed with Lee Kui-yong. The simple defense is just to widen the unbalance of cross strait military power which eventually trun into some incentives for Wat Hawk in PRC. In the "proactive defense" strategy, Taiwan military doesn't have to pursue an defensive force which equal to China's offensive force.

I have no feeling about F16 fighters but submarines are definitely necessary in this "proactive defense" strategy.

The strategy goal of these submarines is not going to fight with PRC. They will be deployed in East China Sea & South China Sea where are the two key transportation lines of China. (I hate to say that. Yes, these submarines are to block Shanghai & HK). With submarines and ground to ground missiles aiming at HK & shanghai, this strategy could reduce the war possiblility to the lowest.

Taiwan doesn't have much strategic depth. Submarines could delay PRC massive invasion in the beginning of war. Perhaps just few hours to 3 days, but it's enough for Taiwan ask for international intervention. This strategy will also give Japan pressures on stepping in the cross strait balance. (think about the majority of Japan's energy import is through South & East China sea and Japan still own the most powerful navy in East Asia.)

I saw this post and was so confused by what you called Taiwan arm procurement "infamous".

It's so ironic. Do you really think Taiwanese would like to spend rediculous money on weapons? If possible, no Taiwanese want to spend a dim on weapons!

Don't ignore the fact that thousands of China missiles aim at Taiwan today.

If someone put a gun on your head, would you want to buy a gun to defend yourself? And you call this "infamous"? Come on!

It's so sad the Chinese in two sides have to point our guns to each other. KMT retook the regime now so the possibility of Taiwan independence is much lower than before.

KMT is working on repairing the corss-strait relationship but KMT still wants to buy weapons. Why? Because the key to prevent corss strait war is NOT in Taiwan. The key of cross-strait peace is for PRC to stop threating Taiwan and stop expanding their military power.

I really hope you can understand the peace is not for one side to surrender to another side. As long as PRC's threat still exists, I believe most of Taiwanese like me will still support the whatever you call arm procurement.


Sun Bin said...


Thanks for your comment. You have every right to be concerned as you said in your final paragraph.

First let's agree (I think we do) war is the last resort. So everything you do is to avoid the possibility of war.

My personal view (if you have read my earlier posts) is that dumb policy and wishful thinking on the mainland (C-see-P gov't) bares most of the blame for the mess today. (visible improvement in recent years though - but obviously not enough) I think this you would agree.

So here we are not debating these grander issues. But simply how useful these weapons are, both in terms of direct defense or 'deterremce'/prevent war. I will raise a few questions
1) targeting SH/HK seems like a credible threat, which could serve to deter a war. okay. however, escalating to a full scale war (or claiming collateral civilian damage -- i suppose you are implying the submarines are going to attack merchant ship?) has the downside of giving up the 'international support'. so is the the trade-off you are willing to go for?
2) i don't know the story of Lee, why he was discharged (or retired) and when. please enlighten me on the backstory, and if there is any evidence that he is green or blue. But he did serve under CSB's government for many years, correct?

the 'procurement' is infamous because it is overpriced, and (IMO) includes mostly useless goods (eg do you think the PAC-3 are useful at all?)

KMT wants to buy weapon? I think it is fine. The question is what to buy and what the best solution is. (the other part of the 'why' i have explained -- to 'lobby' for support in US)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response.

To answer your questions 1, Submarines are NOT going to attack any merchant ship. As I said, the strategic goal of submarine is to get a little bit time in the beginning of war. With few submarines, Taiwan is UNABLE to and also doesn’t need to attack any merchant ships. As long as submarines extend battle fields to South & East China Sea, the transportation line will be blocked automatically (I assume not merchant ship want to get involved in war). To some extent, TW submarines do not even have to attack PRC battle ships. Just deploy mines on the main invasion routes. Ironically, becasue the north east of Taiwan is defended by Japan (Diaoyutai is playing very important strategic role to “balance” the “unbalance” military power of cross Taiwan Strait. It is far more complex than what those Diaoyutai protectors thought.), PRC's invasion route is very limited. Anyway, there is no such "Trade-Off” for international support you mentioned.

Regarding Question 2, I am not familiar with Mr. Lee either. However, I did search some stories related to this news. I felt his speech was distorted by media. His main point is that 300 fighters are enough for TW considering the limited airspace in Taiwan Strait. Same as submarines, he didn’t say don’t buy submarine. What he said is that there is no enough maritime space for 8 submarines. Instead of buying additional F16 fighters, TW air force should enhance the air base ground defense to preserve the most fighters during the first strike (highly likely it will be missiles attacks) which make sense to me. Basically, Mr. Lee didn’t oppose the proactive defense strategy & weapon procurement. Some media such as China Time misled the whole topic.

I still don’t agree that you called weapon procurement “infamous”. Too pricy? Maybe and maybe not. Please note that buying weapons is not like go to super market and pick up the cheapest one. Try to put yourself on TW defense military’s shoes. Do you feel US government is so nice and will save Taiwanese’s money by saying “hey, you don’t really need this, so let’s save some money?”. Of course US government is also trying hard to make money from Taiwanese’s pocket! Since US is the only one country who dares to sell weapons to Taiwan officially, how do you determine the “reasonable” price in the monopoly market? It’s always easier to criticize than do. PAC-3? Sorry, I have no idea about the it’s strategic importance but I do feel TW should increase ground to ground missiles targeting SH/HK & PRC bases.

And, one more thing I want to say, no matter how long Mr. Lee served under DPP or KMT regime, it doesn’t mean he is “green” or “blue”. First of all, TW is a democracy. Although most of high-level TW military leaders are leaning toward KMT in term of political attitude (because the long-time one party ruling), these officers still serve for country instead of political party. I would say majority of mid-level & entry-level officers are very neutral in political attitude. I don’t think Mr. Lee’s political attitude should be a consideration of this debating.


Sun Bin said...


1st, re your last pargraph. I am aware of the story behind. my question (#2 above) was that whether he was mented/promoted by CSB, or he was one of the typical pro-blue officers you mentioned. because that impacts how we interpret his words.
my hypothesie (maybe wrong) had been that since CSB had change most of the very senior officers and it had been 8 years of DPP rule. Lee should be at least light green or non-blue.

i agree with you about the constraint/etc. and i think one key point Lee said (via your paraphrase) is that the area is too crowded to deploy too many subs (playing hide and seek in a very small room!), which makes the 'procuremnt plan' more unreasonable than just a result of lack of choice.

re your other points, there were some discussions in this blog a couple years ago. so i would just stop here.

anyway, i think it is unrealistic for you to get both ("international support" and "laying sea mine/blocking sea route" in international waters). furthermore, it takes more than 8 subs to do a blockade, and the war may be over before any effect of blockade is seen. (note that if the mainland does attack the taiwan island, it is by definitition not a rational decision, and whoever decides that would not be deterred by blocked or bothered about those stuff. he may even be wishing for a full escalation of war.)
remember the single strongest weapon for taiwan is its democracy, not its weapons. protests / people power may prove to be much more effective than all the weapons you procure.

p.s. PAC is ground-2-air, or more precisly anti-missile missiles, i.e. it is not designed to attack even fighter, just missiles (ground-2-air is a lot cheaper). it is not ground-2-ground.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sun Bin,

Your hypothesis (someone was promoted in CSB regime should be light blue or green background) can't be proven. Most of commentators presume that everything is related to ideology and simplify everything. For example, even among those “deep blues”, many of them are nationalists but also anti-communists. Same things happen in “deep greens”, many of them are TW independence supporters but also pacifists. Another example is that the current defense minister of KMT regime was also promoted by CSB regime. How could you interpret this in your hypothesis? Moreover, no matter your hypothesis is right or wrong, you also can’t prove the connection between “ideology backgrounds” & “weapon procurement strategy”. I just want to focus on weapon procurement strategy instead of unproven & unnecessary ideology background debating.

Second, too crowed to deploy too many subs doesn’t mean we don’t need subs. 8 subs is just the starting point of weapon procurement. It doesn’t mean TW will buy 8 subs and US will sell 8 subs eventually. This is very common negotiation skill. Don’t get Lee’s point wrong.

Third, I didn’t see your reasoning of “international support & mine are unrealistic” and I also don’t see the reasoning of “whoever decides that would not be deterred by blocked or bothered about that stuff. He may even be wishing for a full escalation of war.”

If you pay attention to PRC’s Taiwan strategy, PRC always tries to define the cross strait dispute as domestic issues. One of the reasons behind that is because PRC haven’t had enough military power (Navy, to be specifically) to against US plus Japan in the East Asia. We both agreed that the military powers of TW & PRC are unequal and the advantage is leaning toward to PRC rapidly. In this context, the best strategy for defending Taiwan is to internationalize the dispute.

The so-called “internationalize dispute” doesn’t have to be politic supports or military supports. I personally doesn’t expect US will send troop to defend TW in the first strike but US definitely will assist in ceasing fire because TW is too important to US’s benefits in East Asia (if not, why US sent a fleet to TW strait during the missiles crisis of 96 TW presidential election?).

Of course I agree that democracy is Taiwan’s best weapon but you must also agree that military power is the necessary evil for every country.

Again, please don’t ignore that the increasing military power of PRC is the most unstable factor of the cross Taiwan Strait peace after KMT took over the regime (lower the possibility for Taiwan to announce independence). As long as PRC keeps the invasion intention, Taiwan is forced to defend itself by procuring weapons. So the question is “how to defend Taiwan in most cost-efficiency & effective way?” Considering the difficulties of massive troop landing, invasion route, internationalize the dispute, these submarines play a key role for these strategic goals I mentioned above.

PS. Of course I know the PAC is anti-missile missile which were widely used in Persian Gulf War. The reason I mention ground 2 ground missile is that Taiwan already deployed ground 2 ground missiles aiming at SH/HK. Some TW military officers feel TW should weight this mutual aimed missile strategy by increasing ground 2 ground missiles to reach the balance the unequal cross-strait missiles.


Anyway, I felt I expressed my points enough. I'll stop here. You can tell I am a war eagle or not from my responses. It’s just so unbelievable to me that you called TW weapon procurement “infamous” and ignored the reasons of buying these weapons which is because PRC’s increasing military power & invasion intention.

Don’t be fooled by media. The information you saw on media might be truth but also could be just parts of a story. And always try to put yourself on other’s shoes before criticizing others. Thanks for your previous responses.