China's military advantage over Taiwan is increasing amid Beijing's attempts to block foreign forces from intervening in a possible conflict, the island's defense ministry said Tuesday.
The military balance between Taiwan and China has become a sensitive issue in the United States, which remains Taiwan's major security partner despite shifting its recognition from Taipei to Beijing 32 years ago.
Bipartisan critics in Congress have accused President Barack Obama's administration of neglecting Taiwan's defense needs by refusing to sell it 66 relatively advanced F-16 jet fighters. They also say the administration is deliberately holding up the publication of a classified Pentagon report believed to highlight China's growing aerial superiority over the self-ruled democratic island.
In its annual defense white paper published Tuesday, Taiwan's defense ministry said that China's declared 2010 defense expenditures were $77 billion, dwarfing Taiwan's $9 billion in outlays. However, the ministry said, the actual Chinese military budget may have exceeded $200 billion, which would provide Beijing with a dollar-for-dollar advantage of more than 20-to-1.
China also has a huge force-level advantage over the island, the ministry said, with some 2.3 million troops at its disposal against Taiwan's 270,000.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China still claims the island as its own and threatens to attack if it makes its de facto independence permanent.
The ministry said China was taking concrete steps to try to block foreign forces from intervening on Taiwan's side during any future conflict with China. The reference was to the U.S., which besides bearing a congressionally mandated responsibility to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, has also hinted that it might come to the island's aid if China attacked.
The defense ministry report said that in 2010 China deployed a small number of Dong Feng-21 D medium range missiles. That is significant, it said, because the system is seen as a threat to aircraft carriers, the main platform the United States would use if it intervened in any future Taiwan-China conflict.