American scholars urge U.S. to sell submarines to Taiwan

Two American scholars on Asian military affairs called on the U.S. government on Monday to sell submarines to Taiwan to help deter a possible invasion by China's People's Liberation Army.

At a briefing for U.S. congressional aides sponsored by the think tank the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC), IASC senior fellow Rick Fisher said the U.S. administration should keep the promise made by former U.S. President George W. Bush nearly 15 years ago to sell diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan.

In 2001, Bush released the largest arms package to Taiwan since the closing of U.S. military bases on the island in 1979, a package that included four Kidd-class destroyers, 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel-electric submarines.

All but the submarines have been delivered.

Pointing to China's military buildup and its threat to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, Fisher said: "To help keep the peace, keep the waters calm, what we should be thinking about here in Washington is how do we help our friends in Taipei obtain a next-generation capability."

He said the U.S. government should have made good on Bush's early promise to sell the submarines to Taiwan, but if Taiwan is now going to make them themselves, then "let's help the Taiwanese."

Fisher also suggested that the U.S. sell new-generation fighters to Taiwan, because "they need to replace their French Mirages."

"If they can't afford new F-16s, let's offer them used F-16s, or even a small number of F-35s," he said, emphasizing the importance of getting started with training, and building capacity at a fifth-generation level.

Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, said submarines are important to Taiwan because "submarines are the most visible manifestation of sovereignty."

He said the U.S. would not question the need of other Asian countries, such as Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, to have submarines, while commenting on Taiwan's demand for submarines. By Tony Liao and Lillian Lin)