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Taiwan: First Quadrennial Defense Review Submitted to Legislature

(Mar. 27, 2009) On March 13, 2009, the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China (on Taiwan, the ROC) submitted the Quadrennial Defense Review to the Legislative Yuan in written form; it was reportedly the first such document of its kind for Taiwan. The United States is the only other country to have published a similar report. (Sofia Wu, Taiwan to Issue First Quadrennial Defence Report, BBC, Mar. 15, 2009, Factiva online subscription database.) The QDR was issued in conformity with article 31 of Taiwan's National Defense Act, as amended on August 6, 2008, which stipulates in a new paragraph 4: “[t]he MND shall, within ten months after each presidential inauguration, publicly submit the Quadrennial Defense Review to the Legislative Yuan.” (Ministry of Justice, Laws and Regulations Database of the Republic of China,
(last visited Mar. 18, 2009). President Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated on May 20, 2008. (Ma Becomes 12th President Today, THE CHINA POST, May 20, 2008, available at

One key feature of the Review is that Taiwan has dropped the use of the terms “active defense” and “pre-emptive strike” from its national defense policy in relation to mainland China. These terms “were the linchpin of Taiwan's defence philosophy under pro-independence former president Chen Shui-bian … .” (Lawrence Chung, Taiwan Softens Its Defence Policy in New Sign of Warming Ties, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, Mar. 17, 2009, at 1, LEXIS/NEXIS online legal information database, News Library, Most Recent 90 Days File.) The Review states: “[t]he aim of ROC armed forces-building and war preparedness is to safeguard the security of the nation, to be prepared for war but not seek a war. We would never take the initiative in starting a conflict or attack and also respect international norms in not developing nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, nor would we become a threat to any nation” (introduction to Ch. II, Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C., QUADRENNIAL DEFENSE REVIEW 2009 [QDR] at 40 [in Chinese], (last visited Mar. 20, 2009)).

As part of the defense challenges facing the ROC, the Review states, in regard to military threats and the risk of war, “[d]espite easing [of] cross-strait military tension, the PRC [People's Republic of China] has never renounced the use of military force against the ROC. Vigilance for military readiness, therefore, cannot be relaxed.” (Id., Ch. I, at 21.) In particular, the Review refers to the PRC's March 14, 2005, Anti-Secession Law, which states in article 8 that under specific circumstances, the PRC can adopt “non-peaceful methods and other necessary measures” towards Taiwan. (Anti-Secession Law of the PRC [adopted on Mar. 14, 2005], (last visited Mar. 20, 2009).) This article provides for “vagueness and elasticity” as to means, form, and opportunity in the PRC's handling of the Taiwan issue. (QDR, supra, Ch. I, at 21.) The Review also notes the types of threats to Taiwan posed by the PRC, such as aggressive development of surveillance and reconnaissance satellites and electronic warfare as well as a “three-front war” of legal, media, and psychological warfare. Despite certain expressions of good will, moreover, the Review sets forth eight examples of PRC military preparedness operations aimed against Taiwan. At the same time, however, the document cites Ma's call for establishment of a “military mutual trust mechanism” between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits and discusses the prospects for its realization. (Id., Ch. II, at 21-24).

As for defense strategy, President Ma's policy is to build a “solid as bedrock” defense, referred to in English, with a play on words, as the “Hard ROC” defense plan. (Id., Ch. II, at 40.) Taiwan's five strategic defense objectives, elaborated upon in the Review, are: war prevention, homeland defense, contingency response, conflict avoidance, and regional stability. (Id. at 42.)

Since 1997, when Taiwan's Armed Forces numbered 452,000, there has been a gradual reduction in size to 275,000 in 2008. Among the plans set forth in the Review for the transformation of Taiwan's national defense are a further downsizing of the Armed Forces to a target figure of 215,000 and the development of an all-volunteer force. (Id., Ch. I, at 32.) There are near-term and long-term plans for the restructuring of the Armed Forces. In conformity with the near-term plan (2011-2014) of creating an all-volunteer force, for example, the ROC will consolidate its six command headquarters (ground forces, navy, air force, joint logistics, reserves, military police) into three (ground forces, navy, air force); as part of the long-term plan, it seeks completion of modernization of its forces by the base line of 2023. A plan has been devised for the gradual establishment of the all-volunteer force that will entail annual reductions of the number of draftees and increases in the number of volunteers, as well as reviews of volunteers' benefits. (Ministry of Defense, R.O.C., QDR 2009 OF THE ROC ABSTRACT [in English], (last visited Mar. 20, 2009).)

The Review's chapter on the direction of development of joint operations capabilities is divided into nine sections. They cover, for example, joint command, control communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (“C4ISR”) capabilities; joint information operations and electronic warfare capabilities; joint anti-aircraft, joint sea control, and joint ground defense capabilities (three separate areas); asymmetrical warfare capabilities; reserve mobilization capabilities; combined logistics capabilities; and overall intangible combat capabilities. (Id.)