Saturday, December 19, 2015

Rupert Hammond Chambers excellently responds to criticisms of the Taiwan Arms Deal

Interior of a Buddhist temple near my house.

This is from The Nelson Report of 12/18. Note the last paragraph, which makes the same argument that I always do: "tension" is how Beijing manages the Washington-Taipei relationship and the Washington-Beijing relationship. The international media, which reports constantly on "tension" but never describes its political function, serves Beijing in that way. This form of soft power, in which Beijing's claims about its own history or tension or its behavior are presented without analysis or comment in the international media -- sometimes even as the basis of analysis and comment, is one of China's most important forms of soft power.

If you're reading this Rupert, many thanks for this response.


Loyal Reader Rupert Hammond-Chambers, US-Taiwan Business Council, begs to differ with our coverage of the Taiwan arms sale package:


At moments when equities that directly impact the Council come up I am particularly attune to what's reported.

There are a significant number of people who share the concerns the Council sent out yesterday in our press release who know the "actual facts". Congressional staffers and leadership at SFRC, SASC and HFRC, the USTBC represents every company involved in every transaction and has had insight into both the programs and the process. We disagree with your presentation of the administration's position.

In response:

- Not ready to integrate what? This arms package? This is second hand gear which they already own and munitions which they already have in inventory. There is no integration issues surrounding this package. If the "it" is new capabilities that would speak to a priority list with consideration of new items but there has been no such review nor any interest in consideration of new capabilities. They are rebuffed before LoRs can be submitted.

- Taiwan has requested items and been rebuffed consistently. The F-16 C/Ds are the most public and recognized example. Not only were their LoRs rebuffed they were instructed not to submit LoRs without permission. The Obama Administration could then claim that Taiwan made no requests. It's fantastically disingenuous. It's good tactics if you want to kill programs at the door. This was the lesson of the F-16 A/B fight with congress. Keep programs out of the system and you won't be pressured to complete sales which in turn may disrupt China military-to-military engagement or climate change conferences in Paris.

- In 2009, the Legislative Yuan budgeted US$500M to purchase F-16s. the US rebuffed their LoRs. The LY budgeted this money because the Bush Administration had rightly accused Taipei of not putting its money where its mouth was after 3+ years of KMT blocking the defense budget. That US$500M could have been used for other defense priorities but when allocated to a specific program that doesn't come to fruition it is returned to the general treasury unused. The LY cannot budget for programs when the US keeps the LoR door shut. The Taiwan budget process and commitment starts when Taiwan brings a program to the US which accepts an LoR. Taiwan then budgets the funds with some surety that the program would go to the US congress in a specific year. Our process is broken. LoRs are refused. Programs are placed on indefinite hold to gauge when to thread the China schedule needle. How can Taiwan possibly budget when our willingness to engage is so erratic. When programs are held for years without notification.

The argument for replacement fighter's you cite is an old crucible that fails when applied to the many more likely scenarios involving crisis in the Taiwan Strait other than China launching everything it has at Taiwan. Wouldn't China want to keep some of its powder dry or direct its forces at the US, Japan and possibly Korea? Is an all-out attack the most likely action by China? Taiwan has a quantitative problem for its fighters with the number of available F-16s to patrol Taiwan airspace falling to almost 70 at present operational rates when the upgrade program kicks in in '17. These planes will experience further wear and tear as they have to be used more in the absence of additional fighters. The most disturbing part of your argument is where it logically ends, with Taiwan fielding no air-force if we're unprepared to replenish its fleet. China's missiles threaten Korea and Japan equally, are you arguing that they too should eventually have no air force? Should we withdraw all our planes from Okinawa because it is similarly threatened? Of course not, Japan and Korea have a right to field a robust air defense to address all scenarios. We have a right to forward deploy our equipment. Your argument is a canard.

On the submarines, the key part of the quote is "Taiwan has a design". In 2001 we committed to assist Taiwan in procuring submarines. In 2003 and again in 2007 the U.S. prepared a design phase to support Taiwan procurement of submarines. The Obama Administration is balking at helping Taiwan secure a design whether through an FMS design phase, such as the Taiwan submarine CN program that is sitting at the Department of State right now or supporting Taiwan's efforts to secure a design from Europe or Japan. This isn't Taiwan failing to act, this is the US balking at fulfilling an obligation because of the political ramifications of support. Submarines would hugely complicate PRC invasion scenarios. The Obama administration could have included the CN sitting at state on subs and partnered in securing a design. The Obama administration chose not to.

The argument that it's all small things, such as this package, or all something else such as F-16s and subs is false. What we sell Taiwan should be driven by a threat assessment. Nothing should be taken off the table to begin with. We should be focused on any platform or system that complicates PRC intentions. We haven't undertaken a proper assessment in over a decade and 2001 was the last time such an assessment drove a serious look at capabilities with new commitments. This package was driven by politics, the politics of US-China relations. This is about the minimum necessary to comply with the TRA while avoiding any disruption to bilateral relations with Beijing.

The biggest straw man in US-Taiwan defense relations is the argument that constituencies in this debate are proposing parity or "overcoming the spending gap". No one is arguing that. Should Taiwan spend more than 2% of GDP? Absolutely. However, this is about Taiwan having access to a range of capabilities that may complicate the myriad scenarios Beijing will consider not just an all-out attack with everything fired at Taiwan which is the scenario presented to kill any discussion of politically sensitive solutions. Again, we shouldn't be negotiating with ourselves by removing platforms and systems that would make a difference because the political lift is hard.

Yes, equipment is being delivered now. This Four year gap, 2011 - 2015, in arms sales will result in a four year gap in deployment of new capabilities that should be being sold now. It's not a stop start process but one that should be addressed year-on-year. You don't just catch up when a sale is made it takes serious lead time to assess, process, buy and deploy these systems. What was sold in '08 and 2010 is being delivered now. What will be delivered in 2020? Nothing. The timeout taken these past 4+ years will have a serious impact on Taiwan in the coming years, a mess the next US president may well be cleaning up.

Rather than Taiwan forces filling the gap created by this 4+ year delay it'll be our forces doing it. Personally, I'd rather have Taiwan personnel defending Taiwan.

Finally, now Taiwan's military is a guerrilla force?

Why was the package delayed four years. How does this package adequately address the changes in the PRC threat over that period?

Why isn't the administration using the regular FMS process to assess, on an ongoing basis, Taiwan requests? Is packaging arms sales the right approach?

The PRC looms like an 800 pound gorilla over this entire broken process. In one place their threat to Taiwan grows daily in another the US refuses to respond to that threat in a meaningful way for fear of upsetting the aggressor. It's genius.

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!


Mike Fagan said...

Very good. So the State department is full of eunuchs? Who could have guessed that?

Anonymous said...

Two issues come to mind in Bush's response:

He does not address the KMT's stonewalling of purchasing new military equipment from the US. Is it not correct that the current government claimed lack of funds as an excuse not to upgrade military hardware?

Second, is the US concerned at all by the leaky state of Taiwan military security?

Anonymous said...

I erred in my recent post. I meant Hammond-Chambers's comments, not Bush's