The Nelson Report replies to Rupert Hammond-Chambers (original post here). This debate is going to take on new life with the new administrations in both the US and Taiwan, and the rapidly changing strategic picture in East and SE Asia.
THE TAIWAN ARMS DISCUSSION... Friday's Report contained a long note from Loyal Reader Rupert Hammond-Chambers, chief of the US-Taiwan Business Council here, which we were happy to run as "equal time" to our own comments earlier in the week.
Because he made so many important points, we discussed it with informed colleagues, and do feel the need to add some points to what Rupert strongly objected to in our original note.
First, until and unless the situation is rectified by the new Legislative Yuan, as a practical matter the Taiwan military is out of money. They are reducing the number of their forces. That being the case, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) is in absorption-mode, not acquisition-mode at the moment.
How many Letters of Requests (LOR) did Taiwan submit in 2012-2013 after the 2011 notification? Nobody in the USG turns away LORs, this is a charge that many accept but which is disproven by the facts.
Also, Taiwan does not submit requests on a regular basis either, we are reliably informed...but here's where the misunderstanding may arise: You may remember the press articles last March about Taiwan "wanting" to buy MH-60R helicopters. An informed USG official responds:
"If you want something, submit the LOR to AIT and DSCA so the USG can start the lengthy process make the decision whether or not to sell it. Giving an interview to Defense News does not qualify as asking the USG. The USG can't include something in a notification package if the Taiwans do not request it."
Further, as a practical matter, it was argued, "requesting" via the media puts the USG is the uncomfortable position of pressuring Taiwan to submit LORs to "prove" to Congress that the Administration isn't dragging its feet... only to have Taipei come back and say they don't want to buy it, or they want only a small number.
An example: no one has pointed out that Taiwan was authorized four Perry Class Frigates in the new legislation, but DOD only notified two? Did the Obama Administration exercise restraint and withhold two because of a fear of China, as some may charge? Our sources say absolutely not, and that Taiwan only wants two.
No debate there are definitely problems aligning Taiwan budget cycles with US decision-cycles, but that is not the crux of the problem. And yes, some in this (and every) administration are probably overly cautious about PRC reactions.
Two final points, we should note that Rupert seems to be recommending "something new" being sold every few months. That is not threat based planning.
And finally, this...as a very junior staff participant in drafting the Taiwan Relations Act, we would gently remind everyone that it isn't true, as is now usually claimed, that the TRA "requires the US to sell arms to Taiwan". Read the language again...
What's required is that the Administration consult with Congress on a regular basis to determine what the situation is, and what arms Taiwan may need.
Also, an acquaintance passed this along...
I went to a seminar on " Is Japan Really Back ?" at Columbia University this afternoon. It was a special program honoring the retirement of Gerald L. Curtis after his 47 years of teaching at Columbia._______________________
The seminar was more on military and security and less on economics. But, it was fairly informative. Most panelists are Curtis' former graduate students of Curtis, now on the faculty in universities from all over the world.
One interesting question was asked about Taiwan at the end. The session chair, a Columbia alum and a former graduate student of Curtis did disclaim that what he said in the seminar was his own, and not reflected the US government.
However, I think it was very rare for an incumbent State Department officer to say that bluntly on the relationship between two other nations.
" Taiwan is a chip for Abe. The DPP will win the presidential election and Taiwan will be closer to Japan after 2016.
Tsai Ing -Wen had a " secret meeting " with Abe ( with his hands to show the quote) in her trip to Japan, and they are good friends.
Abe could hold Taiwan in his pocket as his leverage for Japan's economic and security interests, and Beijing knows well about it".
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