The months ahead could prove rocky. Ma faces a tough re-election fight next January, during which he will likely have to show that while ties with Beijing are improving, relations with Washington are solid; the F-16s would be proof. Should Ma lose, Beijing would almost certainly ramp up tensions with his successor, whose party is at least formally committed to Taiwanese independence. That too would seem to argue for a sale of the F-16s.Kudos for AP for pointing out that it is China that ramps up tensions, not the DPP. Enav also highlights Ma's equivocating on defense. The WSJ column of Paul's Mozur's asked the same question, and gives a good, detailed review of the issue as well.
Today the news broke that 45 senators had asked for F-16 sales to Taiwan. The Cable at Foreign Policy has the call:
The letter was spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Inhofe (R-OK), the two senators who resurrected the Senate Taiwan Caucus in January just in time for the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao. But it was also signed by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the two leaders of the brand-new China Working Group, which was created to build ties between Congress and Beijing.This is big, as news, but it really changes nothing. The F-16s aren't coming here because the Ma Administration doesn't really want them and the Obama Administration doesn't want to sell them -- Ma is just making noise -- and because, as a friend of mine and I were just discussing tonight, there's a growing spirit of resignation in DC that Taiwan is circling the drain. Apparently everyone has forgotten the simple lesson that you don't make the monster smaller by feeding it. I'm glad I won't have to be the official who has to explain to the public why the US wouldn't defend 23 million people in an allied democracy with its own armed forces but will go to war over some uninhabited rocks in the ocean because of the US-Japan Security Treaty.
The senators admit they have more than one motivation for selling F-16 fighters to Taiwan.
"We are deeply concerned that further delay of the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan could result in the closure of the F-16 production line, and urge you to expedite this defense export process before the line closes," they wrote.
Over 4,500 F-16s have been produced and deployed by the U.S. and over a dozen other countries in the last 40 years, but the U.S. air force no longer purchases the plane and producer Lockheed Martin depends on foreign sales to keep the F-16 business going.
Of course, the way to read that, as Bob Sutter hinted in his most recent analysis (blogpost), is that if Taiwan is sold out, Japan will be next.
Another fighter deal happening this week should also be of interest to Taiwan: India chose not to go with a US fighter for its upcoming massive jet purchase.
India’s Defence Ministry did the previously unthinkable earlier this month. As reported previously in The Diplomat, India eliminated two major US aviation firms—Boeing and Lockheed Martin—from the race to secure a lucrative $11 billion contract to supply 126 combat jets to the Indian Air Force.Fear not, the deal does not signal a major shift in India's relations with the US. China's close relations with Pakistan appear to be aimed squarely at India, meaning that sooner or later New Delhi is going to show up in Washington with a dowry and a wedding ring. My friend and I also noted in our discussion tonight that Indian thinkers have been looking at Taiwan as a possible counterweight to China. I've been advocating for years that Taiwan needs to move closer to India strategically but Taiwanese leaders don't seem to be headed in that direction. Fortunately this is already happening at the grass roots. Taiwan's universities are flooded with Indian grad students who are always a pleasure to talk to (Is there any way to stop them from calling me "sir"? I feel like the personal agent of the Raj whenever they do that). Below is the heartwarming sight of a line 200 meters long forming in my university cafeteria, students waiting to purchase a plate of real Indian curry made by grad students from India, for $60 NT. Even when elites refuse to make the right policy, the people can still vote with their feet.
After a gruelling, two-year process including field trials of the six aircraft in extreme weather conditions, the Defence Ministry shortlisted two European firms—EADS and Dassault Aviation. Swedish Firm Saab and Russian RSK MiG were the other two bidders left disappointed.
The decision sent shockwaves through Washington’s defence establishment as it had expended significant political, diplomatic and commercial capital in trying to secure the contract. Indeed, US President Barack Obama lobbied on behalf of the US firms during his November 2010 visit to New Delhi, following up with a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- Don't miss this badly organized and historically inaccurate editorial from the China Post on J Michael Cole, the Taipei Times editor. Congrats, J Michael, you've made the big time.
- Robert Sutter again explaining why Taiwan's freedom of action is eroding. Bob, can you tell us what we should be doing to enlarge it?
- Poll says most Taiwanese want to work in China. Sure.
- Taipei Dome gets go-ahead, angering environmentalists
- Ma wants birthrate boosted.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.