Taipei: The offshore Penghu archipelago is more strategically important than the former frontline islands of Kinmen and Matsu, a Taiwanese scholar recently said, while calling on the government to bolster Penghu's defenses to prevent a Chinese invasion as losing the islands would imperil the whole country.
In a paper titled, "the Strategic Role of Penghu in the Defense of Taiwan," released late January, Paul Huang (???), an assistant research fellow at the government funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), called on the nation's armed forces to beef up Penghu's defenses, which play a crucial role in the defense of the country.
According to Huang, Penghu or the Pescadores are an archipelago of 90 islands in the Taiwan Strait, and have long been a strategic location, with the Dutch, French and Japanese all launching campaigns against the islands since the 17th century.
From an international political point of view, Penghu is the first line of defense in the so called "first island chain," which refers to the major archipelagos on the East Asian continental coast that comprise the Kuril Islands, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines and Borneo.
Their strategic location means the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) would have to take the islands in any invasion of Taiwan.
According to Huang, Penghu is far more important for Taiwan's defense than the islands of Kinmen and Matsu.
Due to their proximity to China, it would be extremely difficult for Taiwan to defend Kinmen and Matsu, which at the closest point are only 2km from China's Fujian Province, Huang said.
In contrast, Penghu, which is about 140km from China, has a more strategic role to play in Taiwan's defense, he added.
The archipelago is already the most heavily guarded of Taiwan's offshore islands, according to Huang. Currently, Taiwan has stationed troops on 16 of Penghu's 90 islets.
Around 70 of the military's 460 M60A3 tanks are deployed in Penghu, with a Kidd class destroyer at sea, which could be armed with the RIM 66 Standard missile system, while the islands' air defenses are boosted by Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) jets as well as the Tien Kung surface to air defense missile system.
Should Chinese military vessels invade, troops in Penghu can also fire Hsiung Feng II anti ship missiles, he added.
In addition, the 300km range of the radar station at Shiyu Township in Penghu allows early detection of PLA aircraft and vessel movements in the area, covering most of the Taiwan Strait and southeastern coastal areas of China.
Huang warned that the loss of Penghu in the event of a cross strait military crisis could jeopardize the security of the whole nation.
As Taiwan is taking steps to build its own submarines, Huang called on the military to deploy submarines in the waters around Penghu in the future to further deter Chinese invasion, which would also help prevent the PLA from crossing the "first island chain."
Huang's paper was published on Jan. 21 in the 151st edition of the INDSR's Defense Situation Monthly.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel