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In a Fortnight
Joseph E. Lin, The Jamestown Foundation, China Brief
3/15/2007

U.S. AND JAPAN’S ISLAND CHAIN POLICIES CRITICAL TO TAIWAN’S DEFENSE

In a recent report assessing the future missions of the four Keelung (Kidd) class destroyers that were recently commissioned into the Taiwanese Navy, Chien-tuan K’o chi (Defense Technology Monthly) senior editor Chang Li-teh argued that understanding U.S. and Japanese military policies toward Japan’s island chain is critical for Taiwanese military planners. In the event of a conflict across the Taiwan Strait, whether Chinese ships and aircraft are permitted to pass through the waters will heavily influence the operations undertaken by the Taiwanese military. The island chain that extends southward from Japan’s Ryukyu Islands includes a significant portion of the East China Sea, and if left open for the Chinese navy to pass through, would significantly stretch the capabilities of Taiwan’s four naval task forces, each of which depends upon the Keelung-class destroyer to provide anti-air coverage. The ideal scenario would of course be an intervention by U.S. forces that consists of engaging all PLA ships and aircraft, though Chang notes that a third possibility in which Japan’s territorial waters and its exclusive economic zones would be prohibited from entrance by either side would be beneficial to the Taiwanese navy as well. With the northern waters sealed off from intrusions by Chinese surface vessels, Taiwan’s naval fleets operating on its eastern coast would only need to be concerned with threats from enemy submarines. Given the distinct operational challenges of each scenario, there is a pressing need for Taiwanese military planners to increase the current levels of dialogue with their U.S. and Japanese counterparts so as to adequately prepare for the most likely situation.

CHINESE HEALTH AUTHORITIES PREPARE FOR POTENTIAL SARS AND AVIAN FLU OUTBREAKS

As warmer weather begins to arrive in southeastern China, provincial and local authorities have begun to undertake a number of additional measures to prepare for potential SARS and avian influenza epidemics. On January 9, Shenzhen city officials staged a surprise drill meant to test the local medical and health ministry officials’ ability to handle outbreaks (Ming Pao, January 29). In Hong Kong, the Center for Health Protection (CHP) announced it had been notified by the Guangdong Province Health Department that there have been no human cases of avian influenza in the province (Xinhua, January 22). Yet, Dr. Thomas Tsang of the CHP called for health officials to remain vigilant because recent reports of avian flu cases in nearby Chinese provinces as well as Hong Kong indicate that the H5N1 virus remains active in local wild birds; on February 17, the body of a bird found in a park in Hong Kong tested positive for avian influenza (Xinhua, February 17).

Hong Kong has been particularly concerned with an outbreak of the avian flu or a resurgence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and has implemented several precautionary instruments in recent months and years. Following the SARS epidemic in 2003 that devastated Hong Kong’s economy—in just months, unemployment rose to 7.8 percent and economic growth for the year decreased by one percent—Hong Kong undertook a number of preventive measures, including the implementation of a disease surveillance system and poultry control practices at farms, markets and ports. Such procedures, as well as the formulation of infection control guidelines and the training of healthcare workers, are meant to enable the city to react much more quickly and efficiently than it did in 2003. In 2005 and 2006, Hong Kong also signed agreements with Macau and Guangdong province that created cooperative mechanisms for public health emergencies to better facilitate communication between the various health ministries.

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