U.S. lawmakers across party lines have stepped up pressure on President Barack Obama to sell F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, with some accusing the administration of showing deference to China.These statements came at a hearing on Thursday on Why Taiwan Matters. Chairman Ross-Lehtinen's opening statement is online here. Randall Schriver, head of the Project 2049 Institute and longtime Taiwan supporter, testified at the Committee meeting (Testimony). Schriver makes two excellent points (1) arms sales have coincided with key moments in Taiwan-China relations and have not upset relations and (2) arguments for abandoning Taiwan are unsound but should be treated with respect because the people making them have gravitas. (I'm going to ask Schriver if he is willing to make an exception for bloggers on (2)).... anyway, he observes:
"With over 1,600 missiles pointed directly across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan needs the means to defend itself from the threats and intimidation," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Taiwan needs the next generation of F-16 fighter jets now in order to protect its skies," she said at a June 16 committee hearing.
However, there have been few repercussions of arms sales for cross-Strait relations. We can document that cross-Strait breakthroughs often occur after U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are announced. Notably, the so-called ‘1992 Consensus’ occurred shortly after the largest U.S.-Taiwan arms deal up to that point in time was announced. More recently, the Congressional notification of $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan in January 2010 preceded the conclusion of ECFA by a mere few months. Furthermore, ECFA negotiations were not interrupted by the notification. These breakthroughs demonstrate that arms sales give Taiwan the confidence it needs to get to the negotiating table and engage in constructive talks with China. They demonstrate that the United States’ military partnership with Taiwan is paying dividends. Why then should policy change? The increasing economic and political cooperation betweenJune Teufel Dreyer, an expert in things PRC and also a staunch supporter of Taiwan, also testified (testimony). She noted, apparently referring to Foreign Affairs:
China and Taiwan is a sign that the United States should remain committed to Taiwan’s military needs.
Nonetheless, some prominent former officials, former high ranking military officers, and scholars are now arguing in favor of revising the TRA and reducing (or eliminating) our arms sales to Taiwan. While these views do not represent the mainstream, the arguments are being made by serious, credible people – and we should therefore treat their views with equal seriousness, owing to their stature in the policy or academic community rather than the soundness of their arguments.
To add to Taiwan’s anxiety over official waffling and misstatements, a U.S. journal typically described as influential has run articles advocating that the United States, by various means, abandon the island. The journal has published no articles articulating a different point of view, leaving Taiwanese to wonder if its parent organization, widely regarded as reflecting official thinking, is heralding a change of government policy or whether that organization is simply biased in favor of the PRC.Testimony of Mr. Rupert J. Hammond-Chambers, head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, and Ms. Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, an academic specialist in East Asia, is also available online.
This week former AIT Chairman Nat Bellocchi's piece in the Taipei Times reviewed the influence of Congress on US-Taiwan relations over the years:
This closer scrutiny is good. At pivotal moments in history, Congress has played a key role in shaping US policy toward Taiwan and its people. In early 1979, after the administration of then-US president Jimmy Carter had severed diplomatic relations with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Congress stepped in and drafted the TRA, which stipulates that peace and security in the Taiwan Strait and a peaceful resolution to Taiwan’s future are key elements of US policy.Whether Congress can get the Administration to move is highly problematic. Much of the posturing is theatre (but a hearty round of applause for Steve Chabot's condemnation of the treatment of Chen Shui-bian) but it does send a symbolic message. Paul Mozur at WSJ reviews the hearing here, noting that nobody from the State Department showed up. Sad.
A few years later, in the early and mid-1980s, Congress again played a key role: This time in Taiwan’s transition to democracy. Then-senators Ted Kennedy and Claiborne Pell, together with representatives Steven Solarz and Jim Leach, held frequent hearings and made statements urging the KMT to lift martial law and establish a multiparty political system.
This happened in 1986 and 1987, after which Taiwan made its momentous transition to a fully democratic political system. The first elections for all seats of the Legislative Yuan took place in 1992 and the first presidential elections by popular vote in 1996.
During the years of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Congress yet again played a key role, this time in convincing the administration of former US president Bill Clinton to allow Lee to visit his alma mater, Cornell University. As chairman of the board of the American Institute in Taiwan it was my honor to welcome Lee to Cornell.
Disheartening, alas, is the reality that the two Administrations, Obama and Ma, appear to be coordinating policy so that the Ma Administration can keep asking for F-16s it really doesn't want, the Obama Administration can keep stalling, and the US Congress can keep posturing. Because the Ministry of National Defense slashed the 2012 acquisition budget for the F-16s from hundreds of millions of dollars to just $10 million, AP reported this week....
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Luo said his ministry can adjust the budget once Washington approves the deal without offering an exact number on the size of the budget reduction.Those F-16s are a public policy Zeno's Paradox: with each step we move half the previous step closer to obtaining the aircraft, but never actually reach them.
"As the U.S. still has not reached a decision on the sale, we will lower the budget next year so our limited defense budget can be used somewhere else," Luo said. "Our firm commitment to procure the weapons remains unaffected."
Taiwan's mass circulation Liberty Times reported Monday the budget for F-16s will shrink from hundreds of millions of dollars to $10 million in 2012.
Of course, you could read this as Taiwan pushing the US: make the damn sale or we'll use the money elsewhere. But history suggests not.... gone down the memory hole: KMT prevents arms purchase, including F-16s, from reaching the floor of the Legislative Yuan over 60 times.
And remember these grand old days from 2006, when the Chairman of the KMT and the Speaker of the Legislature assured the US that the proposal would go forward?
They have assured the US several times going back almost a year, dating back to Richard Bush's meeting with Wang Jin-pyng back in December, that they have taken US demands into account. KMT Chair Ma Ying-jeou and Wang promised again back in May to move the arms proposal forward. Visits to Washington by both men brought promises. Over the summer and fall there were other apparent indications of Blue softening. Each time, however, Pharoh's heart was hardened, and the arms purchase was kept in bondage in the procedural committee.It's Goundhog Day, with F-16s.
- China controls on rare earths double prices
- Confucian Classics to be force-fed in high schools, because they will make people more moral. Yes, thinking human beings actually believe that.
- In Taiwan bulimia is more common among boys than girls, affecting children as young as 10. We humans go to so much trouble to hurt others.
- Lady Gaga is coming to Taichung and Mayor Jason Hu is sponsoring a Lady Gaga Day and giving her the keys to the city. Words fail me.
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