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Taiwan needs more weapons faster

Taiwan needs more weapons faster

On Wednesday, the administration of United States President Barack Obama notified Congress of a proposal to sell US$1.83 billion (NT$60 billion) worth of military hardware to Taiwan.
The package included two Perry-class frigates, AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, Stinger surface-to-air missiles, Javelin and TOW 2B anti-tank missiles, and a number of other systems and weapons.
The notification by the president to Congress is usually just a formality, with only a highly unlikely objection from members of Congress within 30 days able to derail it.
The announcement has been welcomed by just about all parties involved, with the predictable exception of China of course. The Obama Administration emphasized it was merely following the guidelines of the Taiwan Relations Act in supplying defensive weapons to the island.
Amid the sounds of praise at home and abroad, there were also expressions of “yes, but.” Republicans in the U.S. had remarks in the sense of “too little, too late,” faulting Obama for waiting until near the end of his second term to close the deal.
The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council also welcomed the decision but noted that it had taken four years since the last sale and that the weapon systems in the latest package were not sophisticated enough to meet the Chinese military buildup.
Within that period, Beijing had introduced new fighters, submarines and missiles of its own, but Taiwan had been unable to acquire similar systems from the U.S. or from other sources, and Washington had not helped out with the island’s attempts at developing its own alternatives, the council said.
The previous U.S.-Taiwan arms deal dates back to late 2011, when upgrades for the air force’s F-16 fighter jets were included in a US$5.9 billion (NT$193 billion) package. That amounted to about half of the deals announced by the Obama Administration since 2010.
Quite by coincidence, seven Black Hawk helicopters ordered from the U.S. arrived at Kaohsiung’s harbor Thursday, but those will be used in disaster relief efforts, not necessarily in an eventual war with China.
The sudden pickup in activity on the arms delivery front comes just ahead of the advent of new presidents next year in Taiwan and less than a year later in Washington. Relations between the two sides have been fairly stable throughout changes of leadership in both places, with those in the U.S. being more frequent than in Taiwan.
Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has been designated by the opinion polls as the person most likely to win the January 16 presidential election, though if she does, she will still have to wait until May 20 to take office. While her victory would signal an adjustment in relations with China, it would not fundamentally affect those with Washington.
The opposition party has promised it will increase defense budgets and investment in the domestic armaments sector to allow Taiwan to become more self-sufficient in its defense efforts.
Over the past seven years, President Ma Ying-jeou has boasted he has improved relations with Washington, Beijing and Tokyo up to their best level in decades, but it is obvious to anybody that relations with China can never be realistic without remembering that the country is still a communist one-party state with a strong militaristic bent. Ma has overseen a raft of agreements regarding economic, trade, judicial and touristic cooperation, but the core problem at the heart of the relationship has survived.
China sees Taiwan as a mere province and will not allow it to be treated as a sovereign nation by the international community.
The announcement of the new arms deal was met with the usual bluster from Beijing, which even threatened to boycott companies involved in the weapons supply.
However, it must be clear to anyone that China only has itself to blame for Taiwan’s efforts to seek more sophisticated weaponry, since the island is not threatening anyone.
If Beijing abandoned its unreasonable threats to Taiwan’s sovereignty and its aggressive posture against Japan and Southeast Asian nations over uninhabited islands, it could win more trust and avert an arms race.
The remark that President Xi Jinping made during his meeting with President Ma last November 7 that the more than 1,000 missiles in China were not really aimed at Taiwan was ridiculous and totally unacceptable. Instead of denying reality, Xi should face up to the facts and at least make a start with confidence-building measures. As long as China does not acknowledge its views about Taiwan are totally out of date and as long as it maintains its militaristic stance on regional issues, the people and government of Taiwan and its friends overseas are right to stress the importance of weapon sales to the island.
The U.S. itself has been critical of China’s moves in the South China Sea, in particular the expansion of uninhabited islands controlled by the communist country. There is no reasonable defense analyst who can deny that China is the largest potential threat to peace and stability in the region, in addition to North Korea, whose anger is tightly focused on South Korea and Japan.
Taiwan is more at risk than other countries in the region, as China claims all of its territory as its own, not just a few uninhabited rocks.
All reasonable countries should understand this fact and help Taiwan to maintain its ability to defend itself, its democracy and its economy.
Its first priority now is the development of a diesel-fueled submarine of its own to replace ageing subs bought from the Netherlands decades ago. As no country, including the U.S., has been found willing to sell a fully ready one, they should at least be ready to come up with assistance on how to develop and build one.
Taiwan should not have to wait until new presidents sit in the White House and the Presidential Office Building before the project comes off the ground.
In addition, no political games should be played with the arms sales. DPP presidential candidate Tsai has called on the Kuomintang government not to abuse the deal for its own narrow party-political purposes in the run-up to the elections. The approval of the arms deal is not an expression of praise for the KMT’s Ma Administration to the detriment of the opposition, but a sign that Washington still takes Taiwan’s defense needs seriously.
All sides in Taiwan and in the U.S., in government and opposition, need to work together to persuade Washington to ramp up both the tempo and the quality of the arms sales, in the interest of peace, stability and democracy in the Asia Pacific.


Updated : 2021-09-21 02:29 GMT+08:00