Arms sales demonstration of U.S. commitment to Taiwan: AIT

Following the Bush administration's green light to a US$6.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) expressed Monday Washington's support of President Ma Ying-jeou's handling of relations across the Taiwan Strait, as well as bilateral ties between the U.S. and Taiwan.
"This is a significant and tangible demonstration of the commitment of the United States, under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), to provide to Taiwan the defensive weapons that it needs," AIT spokesman Thomas Hodges said in response to reporters' inquires on the Pentagon's recent notification to Congress that it had approved the sales of various defensive weapons systems to Taiwan.
"We appreciate the Ma administration's efforts to reduce tension in the Taiwan Strait and to build on the already excellent ties between the people of Taiwan and the U.S.," he added.
Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979 after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China, the TRA guarantees U.S. defensive arms sales to Taiwan.
The U.S. Defense Department notified Congress Oct. 3 of its approval of a US$6.46 billion arms package, a decision quickly lauded by Ma, who said the announcement "signals an end to the turmoil of the past eight years and the beginning of a new era of safety and peace, as well as of mutual trust between Taiwan and the U.S."
The arms deal includes Apache attack helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, Javelin anti-tank missiles and sea-launched Harpoon missiles, as well as an upgrade of the E-2T aircraft to the Hawkeye 2000 configuration and blank order requisitions for spare parts in support of F-5E/F, C-130H, F-16A/B and Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) aircraft, along with related support equipment.
However, the approved package does not include the diesel-electric submarines and Black Hawk helicopters that Taiwan is seeking.
In response to the decision, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that rather than hailing the approval of the package as a sign of improved U.S.-Taiwan ties, the Ma administration should be wary of the fact that the package is smaller than expected and be vigilant against the possibility that it is a sign of change in relations between the two countries.
DPP caucus whip Lai Ching-te said the U.S. administration's delay of approval of the arms sale package for so long and only notifying Congress of its decision to give the green light after the regular legislative session had already ended should be viewed as warning signs.
The opposition lawmaker called on Ma's administration not to interpret the approved arms sales package as "a new beginning" but instead as "a new variable" in U.S.-Taiwan ties.
The fact that Hodges' comments -- besides reiterating Washington's commitment under the TRA -- explicitly recognize Ma's efforts in boosting relations with Beijing and Washington, makes it evident that the DPP accusations are unfounded, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.