Saturday, September 29, 2007

Taiwan Gets Help From Congress on F-16s, makes own missiles

The Taipei Times reported that the US Congress, which houses the largest collection of invertebrates outside the Smithsonian, took the State Department to task for its opposition to Taiwan's purchase of F-16s, and sent a resolution through the Committee on the F-16 purchase...

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution that aims to press the administration of US President George W. Bush to allow Taiwan to purchase advanced F-16C/D fighter aircraft to proceed, despite State Department efforts to obstruct the sale. The approval was by a voice vote without objections.

The action sends the measure to the full House, which is expected to take it up soon. The measure was passed under a special House rule, which allows it to be voted on early, but which requires a two-thirds affirmative vote for it to pass.

The action came at an unusually contentious meeting of the committee, after members squabbled over issues related to Ethiopia and Iraq. The Taiwan measure was delayed for more than two hours, presenting time restraints that prevented the committee from engaging in what was expected to be a spirited discussion of the issues and recent administration policies toward Taiwan.

The bill, which is based on US commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1992 to supply the nation with defensive weapons, states that it "shall continue to be the policy of the United States" to make available to Taiwan arms sufficient to defend itself, and that Washington must make arms sales decisions "based solely" on "the legitimate defense needs of Taiwan," with decisions shared jointly by the Congress and the administration and not based on political considerations.

Sponsors made it clear that the bill was aimed at Taiwan's efforts to buy 66 advanced F-16C/D fighters. The issue has taken on urgency because a Legislative Yuan budget measure allocating some US$448 million to start the purchase process would lapse if the first stage was not approved by the US by the end of next month.

The Taipei Times reported on the bill the day before, accusing the State Department of engaging in childish behavior on the F-16 sale:

The bill reflects frustration in the US Congress over the State Department's continuing refusal to allow Taiwan to make a formal request for the fighter aircraft, despite the Legislative Yuan's approval of budgets to begin the procurement process and the mandates of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) on defensive arms sales to Taiwan.

Sources said that many members of Congress were angry over the State Department's role in blocking the sale.

They said that senior officials of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) have tried repeatedly to submit a formal request for the F-16 purchase, but that the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT) Washington office had refused to entertain the request, saying they had been ordered by the State Department not to accept it.

Under the rules of US-Taiwan communications, every communication of this sort must formally go through AIT rather than directly to the US government and it is not clear whether TECRO officials have been permitted to meet face-to-face with US officials to make their case to buy the aircraft.

The Bush Administration has been slowly-strangling US-Taiwan relations, and while Chen Shui-bian's high-handedness is certainly a problem, it is clear that he is not the only reason Taiwan's relations with the US have deteriorated.


At the same time the International Herald Tribune reports that Taiwan is going forward with the development of cruise missiles capable of hitting targets in China:

They said these missiles were essential to Taiwan's defense because China's soaring defense spending was tilting the military balance in the mainland's favor.

"They want to make mainland China hesitate before launching any attack," said Andrei Chang, a Hong Kong-based expert on the Chinese and Taiwanese militaries and editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review magazine. "These missiles could not only destroy military targets, but financial and economic targets as well.

"They want to create massive panic," he added.

There have also been unconfirmed news reports in Taiwan that the military is developing short-range ballistic missiles.

Chen's independence-leaning administration refuses to comment on the existence of a ballistic missile program.

The Bush administration has signaled that it opposes Taiwan developing offensive weapons, including missiles.

At a time when Taipei has angered China with a decision to hold a referendum on the island's bid to rejoin the United Nations under the name of Taiwan, the deployment of missiles that could strike the mainland could further increase tensions.

The US opposes the deployment of cruise missiles because they are "offensive weapons" but it wants to sell Taiwan submarines -- which it told Taiwan it could not have for the twenty years prior to 2001 -- because they were "offensive weapons." And of course, the 1,000 missiles that China aims at Taiwan receive no attention....I guess they must be defensive weapons.

Whatever you may say about the weapons, hitting Shanghai with them is really a dumb idea. Nothing makes a civilian population rally round the flag faster than being bombed, which is why some radical Taiwan independence theorists have argued that the best thing to do for independence is fight a war with China to unite the island's population.

Meanwhile China continues to blast Taiwan and threaten war. Oddly everyone seems to be condemning Taiwan for this behavior. This is an excellent learning experience for Beijing, and what they are learning is that if they become nasty enough, the world leaps to do their bidding. Has any nation, anywhere, condemned China's threats of force across the Taiwan Strait?


Tommy said...

I was pleased to hear of the committee's approval of the resolution, but I fear this won't go very far. This measure only sends the bill to the floor of the House. The House still has to vote on it. Assuming the House passes it (and they might because they are typically more supportive of Taiwan than the Senate - they did vote to end the restrictions on visits by Taiwanese officials), there will be no real pressure on the State Department to give in. Resolutions such as this one are usually non-binding.

As for the missiles, I have mixed feelings. I agree that it is not a good idea to bomb targets in China. But then again, those targets would not be bombed unless a war broke out and China attacked. In that case, it would not do any more harm to let a few fly, and it would certainly do less damage than the arsenal that the Chinese have pointed at Taiwan. The point of the missiles is to just raise the cost of a war.

The main downside is more of a diplomatic one in my opinion. If Taiwan has missiles pointed at China, the Chinese can complain about more "provocation" and I don't trust the rest of the world to understand the fact that China has far more missiles pointed at Taiwan, and that they are the ones who are threatening to invade in the first place.

I really do think that the Taiwanese need to do some innovating of weapons though. As we have seen, there is no guarantee the State Department will honor its commitment to ensure the island can defend itself.

Anonymous said...

Invertebrates in DC, there should be more...

This is so funny, it makes my day!

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, I know it is non-binding, but it does give State pressure, and Congress may make its displeasure felt in other ways, like at budget time. Even if it were binding, I suspect State would simply ignore it.

I think it would be great to hit military targets in China, but not cities. I like your comment about the downside of missile deployment very much.

Anonymous said...

"Nothing makes a civilian population rally round the flag faster than being bombed..."

Agreed. My reading of World War II is that attacking civilians was completely counterproductive. Switching from military to civilian targets was how the Germans lost the Battle of Britain. While on the other side, Albert Speer wrote that the Germans were on their last legs in '43 (I believe) from the bombing of ball-bearing factories, but were granted a reprieve when the Brits switched.

Aside from that purely utilitarian objection, there's the P.R. angle. "Taiwan kills Shanghai civilians" is not a headline that'll win Taiwan many friends, at a time that Taiwan will certainly need them the most.

Raj said...

It's interesting that the Taiwanese cruise missile project is still being reported as something that might be used against civilian targets.

Anyone in the know understands that won't happen. Why? Because Taiwan won't have a large number of them for many years - even then they would be of minimal use in destablising China. They're an ace-in-the-hole to be used against military targets like radar installations, command-and-control centres, staging areas, etc.

In some respects I think that the US is resigned to Taiwan having its own offensive missiles, despite anything it says in public, as it knows China will never reduce and destroy its own arsenal. It would have to offer Taiwan something really big like the F-35 to get the project cancelled.

Michael Turton said...

Perhaps the missiles are bargaining chips to lever high tech military systems out of the US, rather thsan strike at China.

Raj said...

Michael, that's what I was alluding to. But it would have to be really big like the F-35, AEGIS destroyers, etc - F-16s wouldn't cut any ice, as the ability to strike back (without risking pilots) at Chinese facilities is a very useful one.

Anonymous said...

Michael this is what one guy on Facebook said. This guy used to be a blue supporter but now he's solidly green and he's even had great grandfathers who worked for Chiang, but now this guy is reformed. Here is what he says (His name is Ken by the way):

As far as I know, the last thing the US wants to see is if Taiwan is fallen to China, at all. Taiwan is a part of the American great wall of Asia: S. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Guam, and Philippines. Losing Taiwan puts a big hole in US expansion in Asia and they cannot allow such strategic compromise. Which is why even if the Taiwanese does NOT want the US to help, the US will likely help. The prospect of US engagement is not just to secure Taiwan, but to invade China. The truth is, Taiwan, Japan, and US all want China to initiate some sort of military actions against Taiwan. A direct attack would be best, that way, Taiwanese government can really see what China has in store and use war as a way to exercise emergency power to clear all voices against the government in Taiwan right now and achieve independence without problems. Solving the decades long identity problem once and for all. Plus, Taiwanese military for sure is interested in testing some of their newly developed weapons(that we do not know about) on China. For the US and Japan, if China does attack Taiwan, they have all the excuses in the world to engage and invade China, and fully control China later on. It is a vast market and rich with many things, and much easier to control than Iraq. China knows all this, that is why they are very reluctant in attacking Taiwan, they rather buildup their arm forces and continuing with their threats so Taiwanese can vote in favor of them if any forms of national referendum is to be taken place to determine the future of Taiwan.

China wants Taiwan without firing a single round, because if they do attack, they would not only not be able to take taiwan, and probably will lose their entire country.

First of all, Japan is more of the linchpin to Pan-Pacific security to S. Korea and Taiwan. For that is the only country in eastern Asia not under any direct threat right now(China is more of an indirect threat). S. Korea has N. Korea to worry about and Taiwan has China. S. Korea and Taiwan both originally served as gambits for US to curb communism from spreading, nowadays, they are bargaining chips. N. Korea under new leadership is no longer a clear threat to the US, as we all can see lately from the progress in negotiating truce and projects that can be mutually beneficial. The talk has no signoficant result yet, but we now understand the N. Koreans are not as unreasonable as we previously perceived. They are hungry, for food and economic success like China, and they are willing to work with the free world to get those.

N. Koreans are dedicated to "unification" for 2 very good reasons: they are starving and want some more food, and they are afraid of the south. Those are much easier to take care than China's reason for merging with Taiwan. If a war does happen, chances are, it will take N. Koreans a while to even realize what is going on and what they should do about it, I doubt they would take this as a chance to go against South Koreans. Before that can happen, the war is over. And if the US does what they usually do, they would probably even invite the N. Koreans to participate in war efforts against China, not only this helps in lifting N. Korean's image as a new ally to the free world, they can also benefit from other forms of new economic opportunities due to the war events. Japan under the article 9 is not allowed to invade any country for the sake of increasing sovereignty or settling international disputes, but that does not mean they cannot defend their territory or engage in "peace keeping" efforts with other allies if war happens. If China attacks Taiwan, the Japanese can still abide to the joint security agreement they have with US by detering Chinese military actions against Taiwan with their military forces or any forms of aid deemed necessary.

I don't think my view on the possible joint effort in defending Taiwan against China is flawed at all. First of all, the parties I listed that will join in the war efforts against have direct interest with Taiwan and China.

As for the possible usage of nuclear weapons, I have serious doubt about that. For 5 very good reasons:

1. Chinese people in general are afraid of death, and they love money andpower. Instead of "screw it" and launch, you can expect them to be more like "screw it" and flee. As history shows.

2. Chinese military/political system is not like the US, it is not a federal army. the Chinese Central Government is more like a mix of confederacy and feudalism, where each military division controls its own part and do not need to participate in joint effort with other divisions unless there is a common interest. Chinese had to do that because they inherited this system from the ROC era, when it was ruled by war lords. Leaders of the Chinese People Liberation Armies from different divisions have a lot of control over their armies, and they can choose to do whatever. Answer the call of the central government, or not. If they are to go against an army or sure they will lose, chances are, they will just stand fast and not do anything and hope for a peaceful resolution.

3. No matter what we might disagree, the US has the best intelligence network and covert-op force in the world. Chances are, the US will simply convince the Chinese military leaders to just give up fighting the American allies and they will be let live. The Americans might just tell them that they should stay put and not let their people get hurt and once it is all over, they will still be their generals with power under a new China. That's something Chinese would bite, you get the full package: life, money, power, and face.

4. Possibility of nuclear weapons being used is still under a huge debate. However, the consensus is the experts believe that the only time we will see the nukes being used is if one party uses them. The real controversy lies on at what point do the people with their fingers on the red button say "screw it"? We also need to look at this from different perspective. Will the people around the man with power let him use it? People all got families, people they love, and possibility of better future when it is all over. even if the big boss wants to press it, his wingmen might have something to say about that. We can see that from the Cuban missile crisis, just when the situation got very tense, JFK's brother had to contact the Soviet ambassador on behalf of the president to negotiate with the Soviet leader Khrushchev so they were able to reach an agreement under the table to prevent nuclear holocaust from happening. There will always be people with second thoughts. Nuclear wars are more likely to be initiated by terrorists than a sovereign government.

I realize from a glimpse of the above statement, it may not seem so convincing, let me just ellaborate a little bit more. When I speak of US wanting to use "defending Taiwan" as an excuse to invade China, I did not mean something that happens immediately. But I can assure you that the plan to take China would have already been in place long before China's supposed attack on Taiwan and it would just move on to the next stage if an attack on Taiwan does occur. I like to use Iraq and Afghanistan as an example. Iraq is the one of the largest oil reserve in the world and a powerful member in the OPEC, but apart from that, it is also strategically situated in the Middle East(that's why it is called the cradle of human civilization, prehistoric folks werent dumb). If I were the United States, that's something I would really want to have. During the Iraq-Iran war, the US supplied Iraq plenty of weapons in hoping to gain secured relationship so the US can have further control over Iraq in the future and at the same time use it as a buffer to counter Iran and other unfriendly Arab nations. However, to Sadaam Hussein's stupidity, he invaded Kuwait 2 years after the end of the Iraq-Iran thinking they were a strong enough regional power to get what they want. That gave the US a perfect opportunity to take action. The US immediately emerge as a protector of global peace and saved the Kuwaitis from Iraqi occuptaion. Battered Iraq ended up being confined by US led coalition forces and international pressures to serve as an oil cow for the free world to milk via the Food for Oil program. Years of supposed WMD inspections and oil for food program made Iraq poorer and poorer, the US took their time to plan the best way to take Iraq with good reason. A decade of effort made Iraq practically at the mercy of the US in almost every way, politically or economically. With help of media control, the US was able to portray Iraq as a threat and invoked retaliation from various Muslim extremist groups or terrorists to lot against the US. The first world trade center bombing was not good enough, but the incident of 9-11 was an answer to call from heaven, the US was more than glad to use that as a way to acquire the two countries they always wanted: Afghanistan(great strategic importance in Asia) and Iraq.

As you can see, if we take this example to the China-Taiwan situation, we will realize that the US is basically doing the same thing. Not only the US benefit from weapon sale in this MAD race(I have nothing against Taiwan buying weapons from US by the way), the US also will gain much from China if the Chinese does attack taiwan. The US will take the same approach... defend Taiwan first, rebuild Taiwan after the war(huge doughs to be made and good for PR), and corner China with foreign powers in the name of making sure China cannot be a bad boy in Asia(with the amount of foreign investments already in China, the Chinese will have a hard time fending off the foreign powers). There are many countries in Asia hate China enough to want to participate in that. The US will try to find and support Chinese political groups within China to plot against the current regime. Creating more problems for China as the world milking China after the China-Taiwan war under the banner of justice. At the end, when it is the right time, the US will probably cooperate with the revolutionaries within and completely retire the current government from their thrones. The final Americanization of China is complete. Taiwan can be an independent country however they like.

True, the US had a couple unsuccessful campaigns in the past, and you name them all. Korean war, Vietnam conflict, and Iraq. But do you know something? The US has all these experiences, what about China? None. The US fought each war and gained new insights from actual experience, there are no regular military forces from any countries today have more actual military warfare experience than US and UK. And US being the most powerful, it makes China look like no threat at all. "China threat" is no more than a way for the pentagon to milk more money from tax payers. I would never say east Asian countries are 10 times more powerful than the middle east countries for many good reasons. It also depends on what angles are you looking at. Regular conventional forces, yes, most east Asian countries are indeed better. But most east asian countries are US allies, and North Korea may soon be on the American side if the foreign aid talks all work out. China will realize they have been used by the free world order. Apart from the US allies, assuming China is going against the US in military warfare, do u think Chinese have chance of winning against the US? Who are superb in conventional warfare? Korean war was going to be a sure win for US if McArthur did not defy Pentagon and White Houe order by invading China, the US was only ready for a war with N Koreans and was not prepared for a Chinese invasion. The only reason the US had hard time in Vietnam and Middle east was because of the guerilla warfare(Viets gave China a major lesson, too, in Sino-Vietnamese war, if a war does happen between US and China, dont expect Vietnam to help China as they still remember the grudges in 1980's) and insurgents(these Muslim insurgents who are extremely zealous to their faith are die-hard and not afraid to die , either, Chinese are simply NOT like that). What Chinese are strong in, the US is stronger, and what US is having problems with, China has none. Who has greater chance of victory? NOt to mention, if a war does break out, it will be on Chinese turf while the American production power will be least affected, does China have enough capabilities to fend off US allies and recuperate its self afterwards?

Anonymous said...

Phew !! Walter, what an inspiring read !

Based on the assumptions included in this comment, let us assume that (untraceable) Walter and (strangely Japanese-sounding) Ken are code names for “Let War (begin)”. China’s present “rulers”, the State Department and other entities interested in the developments in Taiwan, are intensely scrutinizing Taiwan internal politics. All have been keenly focusing on Michael’s blog, turning it into a focal point of the Sino-American debate over Taiwan.

I would like to advise Michael, from now on to, please, add the (simplified) Chinese and Japanese readings of some of the key words in his daily entries. So as to ensure that a larger readership on both sides of the divide can gain access to (one of) the best informed English language voice on what matters here: Taiwan’s viable future.

Anonymous said...

To the post above:

The Kent guy is clearly smoking something. One word: ICBM.
I don't get people think US and China can actually get into a real war when both parties can destory the world as good as another. Also, the reasons he gave against nuclear war are so funny (personal opinion here and below).

Chinese people in general are afraid of death, and they love money and power. Maybe he should read what the Japanese general who invaded China during WWII wrote right after the first battle in his diary. Regardless, this statement just full of ignorance.

Chinese military/political system is not like the US, it is not a federal army. Each states can block federal request for troops, it just never end up like that. Wait, I forgot, it happened once in Charleston, SC. We are a Republic you know. It is also the reason we bare arms.

No matter what we might disagree, the US has the best intelligence network and covert-op force in the world. Damn, I knew it that 911 is part of government conspiracy.

We can see that from the Cuban missile crisis Clearly Kent didn't know what we told Soviet during the crisis. At that time Soviet only have limited nuclear arms (100:1 US vs Soviet), many expert believed that's why Soviet back down because even if it became a nuclear war (btw that's what US told Soviet that's what going to happen if missiles landed in Cuba). Soviet will lose just on paper.