Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rainy Days and Freezes

Rivers cresting near Taichung. Ordinarily these bridges are many meters above the water. The steady rain has pounded the island into submission.

Yesterday the flooding was so bad that I did the whole trains, planes, and buses gig, spending more than 6 hours on a two hour trip. I got on the 7:00 express to Taichung in the morning -- had tickets for the 7:30 but thought, what the heck, I'll get home faster. The express got to Jhunan where we were informed nothing was moving south of Fengyuan, track was flooded all the way down to Kaohsiung, intermittently. We sat for an hour while they decided whether to take the Coast line. Finally they sent us whizzing down the Coast line, where the flooding had not yet breached the tracks, and we swung around Taichung, without stopping -- much to my frustration -- and then landed in Changhua. Nothing was going into Taichung -- as the major news outlets and even international media were reporting, major streets in our fair city were flooded. I waited around in Changhua for another hour or so before TRA started running trains into Taichung.

But I was lucky. The storm killed 11 in Taiwan, and there are six missing.

Meanwhile it is raining commentary out there today on the alleged freeze. FAPA passed around a condemnation of it.

July 18, 2008
Contact: Iris Ho


In a speech given at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC on July 16, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US forces in the Pacific, acknowledged the Bush Administration’s halt on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and stated that the U.S. Navy has regularly consulted with Beijing on weapons sales to Taiwan.

FAPA strongly protests Admiral Keating's statement and urges the Bush Administration to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Taiwan's security as enshrined in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the Six Assurances.

”We are outraged by Admiral Keating’s statement,” FAPA President Bob Yang, Ph.D. states. “A decision to halt the arms sales to Taiwan would clearly violate the letter of the Taiwan Relations Act, which is after all U.S. law mandating the U.S. to provide defensive weapons and weapon systems to Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. The TRA requires that the United States provides such weapons and systems ‘solely' based on Taiwan's defense needs. Nothing more, nothing less,” Yang adds.
In the Contentions blog, veteran commentator Gordon Chang observes that the freeze is "creeping craveness".....

In the wake of Keating’s remarks, the State Department is expected to issue a press statement today on the matter. We don’t have to wait for the statement to know what’s going on. As the Heritage Foundation’s John Tkacik said, “The Bush administration has abandoned all commitments to defend Taiwan’s democracy.”

Dictatorial Beijing has always complained of America selling arms to democratic Taiwan, but finally the Chinese have found a compliant American president. The man who once said he would do whatever it took to defend Taiwan now says “yes” to whatever Chinese autocrats demand. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of “creeping militarization” of American foreign policy. That’s not the problem, Mr. Secretary. If there’s anything you should be worried about, especially after Keating’s admissions yesterday, is your administration’s creeping cravenness.

Charles Synder, the redoubtable Taipei Times reporter in Washington, reported that the US refuses to concede it has implemented a freeze:

John Tkacik, a senior fellow and Taiwan expert at the Heritage Foundation, which hosted Keating when he made his remarks, called the freeze a “tragedy.”

“It is a demonstration of China’s growing power in Asia, and it will serve as a signal to many in the region that America’s influence is destined to wane,” he said.

“The Bush administration is, in effect, telling democratic Taiwan that it can expect no material, or even moral support from the United States as Taiwan attempts to negotiate a new relationship with communist China,” he said.

Tkacik, a long-time supporter of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in their drive for Taiwanese independence, supported President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in the current US-Taiwan arms standoff.

Ma, he said, “has pledged to improve Taiwan’s relations with China, but even he understands that to deal with Beijing, he must be in a position to negotiate from strength. That strength means that Taiwan must have a credible military force and must have a solid security relationship with the United States,” Tkacik said.

Defending the State Department’s position, a department spokesman would say only that “there is an internal interagency process for the US government to consider all military exports, including sales to Taiwan. When the interagency process achieves the final decision for any specific arms sales, we do notify Congress.”

“We don’t comment on specific weapons systems under consideration, but we faithfully carry out the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act,” the department official said.

In related news, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday called on the US government to resume arms sales to Taiwan as the nation needs the weapons to enhance its national security and to build a sound defensive capability to use as leverage in negotiations with Beijing.
Remember, the Freeze encompasses a number of weapons systems accumulating over several years. This isn't something that occurred when the F-16s were requested. Note also from the Snyder piece that Wang Jyn-ping, Speaker of the Legislature, also wants the weapons. Both public and private statements from KMT bigwigs are in harmony on this issue.

The sad part, as one commentator pointed out privately, is that the US need only have approved the flow of weapons, and it would have become the normal pattern in Taiwan-US relations, complained about in a pro forma way by China, but accepted. Instead, Bush Administration officials have called attention to arms sales to Taiwan in a very dramatic way.

Other commentators are saying that Japan is extremely anxious about this issue. Remember that any attack on Taiwan is likely to travel through Japanese territorial waters. Some influential Japanese believe that the recent Taiwanese forays into the Senkaku (Diayutai) islands are part of a joint KMT-Beijing effort. As Shriver noted in his talk (post below), there's quite a bit of skepticism about Ma Ying-jeou in Tokyo, and Ma's recent moves to wrench the island into China's arms have not helped his image there. Ma is widely perceived to be anti-Japanese. On a wider scale, China's military buildup is making waves in Tokyo, as this commentary shows.

During the 1990s, China set its offshore defense line along sea areas running from Japan through the Philippines. Gradually, however, a new line was drawn to encompass sea areas extending to the Mariana and Palau Islands. China is building the capabilities to counter enemy naval forces in the new sea areas and, to this end, is said to possess more than 30 increasingly stealthy submarines. Since 1996 China has also purchased from Russia 12 Kilo-class submarines, which are quiet and hard to detect, and in 2006 it put into service a domestically produced Yuan-class submarine modeled after the Kilo-class submarine.

The wide ranging water depths, the complexity of water temperatures and the strong tidal currents in the East and South China Seas make it difficult for Japanese and American surface vessels to detect Chinese submarines with increased stealth capability.

Japan's Maritime SDF had trouble detecting a Chinese nuclear submarine when it intruded into Japan's territorial waters near Okinawa's Sakishima Islands in November 2004. The approach of a Chinese submarine undetected within torpedo striking distance of the USS Kitty Hawk during exercises in the waters near Okinawa in October 2006 delivered a serious shock to the US Navy.

Finally, the US government continues -- hilariously -- to deny that there is an arms freeze on. Remarks on Taiwan from the State Department briefing for 7/18:

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you very much. It’s (inaudible) of Phoenix TV of Hong Kong.


QUESTION: My question is regarding Taiwan. What is the current position of U.S., you know, regarding on arms sales to Taiwan? Has it changed, the position?

MR. MCCORMACK: The short answer is no. But let me reiterate for you what our policy is. The Administration faithfully implements the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States makes available items necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient defense. There is an internal interagency process for the United States Government to consider all military exports, including sales to Taiwan. When the interagency process achieves a final decision for specific arms sales, we will notify Congress. We do not comment on specific weapons systems under consideration. And you should all know that we faithfully carry out the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act.

QUESTION: So can I follow up? Is it true that it is frozen for the arms sale for a while, you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have stated the U.S. Government policy on this matter.

QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up? Admiral Keating of the PACOM – I mean the U.S. Commander of the Pacific Command – he said the other day that – you know, he actually – he confirmed that there is actually a freeze on the arms sales to Taiwan. So do you have any comment about his, you know, comment?

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw those remarks. And what I would do is I would point you to what I have just given you as the official United States Government policy that is applicable for all U.S. Government agencies, whether it’s the Department of Defense, Department of State or any other part of the U.S. Government. So I would look to this statement that I’ve just given you as the official U.S. Government policy position.

QUESTION: So what is the process of the, you know, interagency negotiations?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s not interagency negotiations. There’s an interagency review process, as I’ve just outlined for you.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up, sir?


QUESTION: Admiral Keating also said that decision made by the U.S. leaders indicates that there is no pressing and compelling need for, at this moment, arms sales to Taiwan. Does the State Department agree with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, what – I’ll repeat. What I have just given you is the official United States Government position that applies across the United States Government, all department – all cabinet agencies. This is the U.S. Government position.

QUESTION: So, Sean, there’s no freeze on the arms sales issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Can repeat for you – here is the United States Government position.

In its way, denial is a sort of positive sign that someday the freeze will lift. When they start up the flow of arms again, as the US must, they can deny that there was ever a freeze.

UPDATE: Ed Ross asks that the freeze be lifted in the WSJ.

UPDATE: Also on tap is this piece in WSJ by Shriver and others calling on the President to lift the freeze.

UPDATE: John Tkacik on the Heritage Foundation blog with a few words on the arms freeze.

1 comment:

Richard said...

How did Fengyuan fair though? My aunts and relatives are actually there right now... I guess I should probably give them a call.