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Maintaining The Balance of Power

Maintaining The Balance of PowerAs China tests new air-to-air missiles, the U.S. must protect the region's balance of power by sending missiles to Taiwan, write two Tufts experts.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.29.02] The skies over Taiwan just got a little more dangerous. In June, China began testing new air-to-air missiles which threaten to give the sprawling country military superiority in Taiwan's airspace. While the development may put the fragile balance of power in the region at risk, the U.S. can keep the peace by arming Taiwan, say two students at Tufts' Fletcher School.

"The Adder [air-to-air missiles] will substantially increase China's combat air power, eroding the long-standing qualitative edge enjoyed by the Taiwanese air force," Tufts' Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes - both Ph.D. candidates at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - wrote in the Taipei Times. "In short, it could allow China to wrest away the Taiwan Strait - and encourage Beijing to try and settle the Taiwan question by force."

Increasingly out-gunned as China invests in new military technology, Taiwan's air force would have little chance defending against China's Adder missiles, wrote the pair.

"The missiles are clearly designed to skew the balance of power in favor of China, in keeping with China's declared military strategy to coerce Taiwan into submission," Yoshihara and Holmes wrote in the Times opinion piece.

But supplies of U.S.-made AIM 120 air-to-air missiles would ensure that neither country has a distinct military advantage, they wrote.

There is historical support for this proposal, which is currently under consideration by the Bush Administration.

"In the 1990s, because of its traditional reluctance to introduce potentially destabilizing technologies to Asia, Washington hammered out an awkward arrangement under which the missiles are stored in the U.S., to be delivered to Taiwan if China deploys advanced missiles first or a conflict breaks out," they wrote in the Times.

With testing of the new missiles already under way in China, the Fletcher students wrote that the U.S. must ship the missiles quickly, or risk missing their window of opportunity.

"The rapid pace of war in the Taiwan Strait, combined with sheer geographic distance, could keep Washington from rushing the missiles to Taiwan in time if a crisis broke out," Yoshihara and Holmes wrote. "And Taiwanese pilots need to train in the actual battle-space, rather than at bases in the U.S.; otherwise they would be at a serious disadvantage in an air conflict."



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