Friday, May 04, 2007

When will the US get serious about selling Taiwan weapons?

Yesterday AIT head Steve Young joined the ongoing parade of US officials criticizing the island for not buying US weapons....

The Legislative Yuan has been using a "series of domestic excuses" to explain away its inability to pass the arms procurement bill, a senior U.S. official in Taiwan said yesterday, stressing that both the opposition and the ruling parties on the island should be blamed for the impasse.

Director of the American Institute in Taiwan Stephen Young, at a press conference in Taipei, insinuated that Taiwan's continued reluctance to approve the multi-billion Taiwan dollar arms package offered by U.S. President George W. Bush six years ago in the face of protest from China, will lead other countries to think that Taiwan is not serious about its own defense.

The offer, made in 2001, includes six PAC III anti-missile systems, eight diesel-fueled submarines and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarines aircraft.

Taiwan is not serious about its own defense? The number three arms importer in the world among developed nations for the last decade? One of America's biggest customers? Let's be real, please. This claim is absurd and needs to be dropped, because every single male on the island, who must serve in the military, can give it lie. No one can take such hyperbole seriously.

Last year Mr. Young laudably blamed the Blues for their intransigence on the arms issue, a position that several US officials have argued in the last two years. Regrettably that effort was not sustained. Several times Blue leaders, including Ma Ying-jeou, have promised to work to pass the legislation, only kill it in committee. The US has failed to (1) loudly attack Blue perfidy on this issue and (2) keep up unremitting pressure on the pro-China parties. That is one of the steps the US must take if it is serious about passing this bill.

The other step that must be taken -- and I have said it here a thousand times -- is that the US must face its intransigence on this issue. The US has refused to provide co-production opportunities to Taiwan, and it has refused to lower the insanely high price of the submarines. As long as the US refuses to do these things, supporters of the arms purchase will be sledding uphill trying to get other rational humans to accept this purchase. What rational legislator can embrace overspending on weapons when the entire sum creates not one job for his constituents? The real question is not when will Taiwan get serious? but when will the US get serious? about selling the weapons to Taiwan. At the moment, not a single senior US official or commentator except the redoubtable John Tkacik (may his whiskeys always be doubles!) has mentioned this problem. The parade of US officials ignoring our own problems has gone from distressing to grotesque.

Taiwan News further reported:

Young said he is "puzzled by the reticence" of the Taiwanese politicians, especially on a fundamental issue such as national security. He called on the ruling and the oppositions parties to "put aside the partisan differences and pass the (arms) budget" that politicians across the party spectrum have claimed they want to see effected.

Speaking about his recent trip to Washington D.C., he noted that Dennis Wilder, the senior director for East Asian Affairs on the White House National Security Council (國家安全會議), last week said that the U.S. does not support any move by the governments on either side of the strait to develop offensive weapons.

He said some media reports claimed that the U.S. had approved the use of long-ranged offensive missiles in the recent Huang Kuang military exercise. The reports even went as far as saying that the U.S. has offered to name the new system.

"I want say categorically, here, on behalf of the U.S. government that those stories are inaccurate," he stated. The U.S. does not and will not support the development of offensive arms on either side of the strait, but it would be the "right thing" for Taiwan to boost its own defense system, he stressed.

Fascinating. The US doesn't support the development of offensive arms by either side -- yet it supports the acquisition of submarines by Taiwan, weapons which the US refused to sell to Taiwan over two decades of requests by the island....because they were offensive weapons.

Yep, it is easy to see why Steve Young is puzzled.

Is the US serious about selling weapons to Taiwan? Not yet, apparently.


Raj said...

Michael, I think he's refering to the 2007 defence budget, which the two biggest parties have essentially agreed upon. When he says he is "puzzled" it's why the two parties are delaying the passage of something they agree upon because of a bill they can't agree upon.

The 2007 budget only has a small amount of R&D money for the submarines - it's primarily about the P-3C Orions and PAC-3 upgrades. If it had full funding for the submarines in there you'd be right on cost problems, but that isn't the issue here.

Michael Turton said...

I don't think he's referring to that budget, strictly. Note what he says in the TT article:

"The latest explanation has centered around a controversy regarding the Central Election Commission [CEC], but over the past 14 months since I arrived here as director, it has been a series of domestic excuses for Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to explain away the inability to address this current problem," he said. "We believe that Taiwan is not responding appropriately to this steady buildup of the military across the Taiwan Strait. It seems to me that this is a fundamental security problem for Taiwan."

Both news articles place his "puzzlement" in the larger context of the last few years of partisan bickering.

However, that said, the US still needs to examine its own behavior. What we're doing is wrong.


Prince Roy said...

In general, I think Tkacik's analysis of China issues, the PRC in particular, are the result of a few too many double whiskeys.