Friday, July 07, 2017

Two on the arms sales

A woman catches some Zs at the train station, putting her fan over her face.

Longtime US gov't Taiwan expert Shirley Kan wrote in the recent Global Taiwan Institute Brief on the US arms sales. The whole piece is good, but I thought this was interesting....
The State Department did not brief or notify Congress of the pending arms sales until late June. On June 15, Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed concern about successive administrations’ delays in arms sales notifications for Taiwan, which have needlessly dragged out the arms sales process. He hoped to see regular notifications in the future. On June 23, Senators Benjamin Cardin, John McCain, James Inhofe, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, John Cornyn, and Ron Wyden sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump, urging his administration to send pending notifications immediately. They also alluded to the lack of consultations with Congress on arms sales to Taiwan, concluding that they “look forward” to discussions on Taiwan’s defense needs.
She warns...
In addition to ending the distortion of “packages,” the administration looks to replace Obama holdovers with Trump’s own personnel in the Defense and State Departments, including at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Positions also could change, such as separating the portfolio on Taiwan from that on China.
By "distortion of packages" she refers to the effect of lumping sales of disparate systems into one big package, which highly politicizes what otherwise might be routine follow-on and upgrade sales. If each weapons system were sold separately at different times, when China complained, then the US could point and laugh: "No, seriously, you are whining about the sale of 48 anti-aircraft missiles?" or "How on earth could spare parts trigger you, Beijing?"

But when things are a gazillion dollar "package" it gives Chinese complaints a certain plausibility and makes lawmakers and the various government departments that much more hesitant to make the sale. Note that the Obama Administration refused to approve the deal, to stay on China's good side. It might have been more willing to if the package had been sold in small chunks that would cause less political friction with Beijing.

J Michael Cole writes in Taiwan Sentinel on the arms package. After noting that there is little chance of catching up to China, he observes:
Nevertheless, from a qualitative perspective the latest package contains some interesting elements which suggest greater willingness on Washington’s part to sell weapon systems to Taiwan that are not purely defensive in nature, a limitation that has long guided arms transfers to the island-nation. Some of the articles reflect a shift in Taiwan’s defense posture from static defense toward counterforce — the ability to strike targets in China or before they cross the median line in the Taiwan Strait. Three systems — the MK 48 Mod 6AT heavyweight torpedoes, AGM-88B HARMs and AGM-154C JSOW air-to-ground missiles — fall in this category and will complement indigenous weapons currently deployed by Taiwan’s Navy and Air Force.
Hopefully the flow of arms will become a regular and low-key affair.
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