2010-01-29 | Pending Arms Sale Designed to Meet Taiwan’s Self-Defense Needs
Pending Arms Sale Designed to Meet Taiwan’s Self-Defense Needs
29 01 2010
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington - The Obama administration has notified the U.S. Congress that it intends to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms and military technology to Taiwan, saying the sale is meant to address the island's self-defense needs and give its leaders confidence in the their ongoing dialogue with Chinese officials. That dialogue is meant to peacefully resolve long-standing differences between the two.
Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified, told reporters January 29 that both U.S. national law, as outlined in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, and U.S. strategic interests require the United States to provide Taiwan with defensive capabilities, and that the United States has a responsibility to address any challenges to continued stability across the Taiwan Straits. "We take that responsibility very seriously," one of the officials said.
"Our primary goal is the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits," one official said, adding that continued peace and stability "has in many respects been the basis of China's enormous progress, Taiwan's effective growth and democratization, and generally a peaceful situation in northeast Asia for decades."
The Obama administration supports the dialogue that has been going on in recent years between Taiwanese and Chinese officials to resolve their differences. The officials described the dialogue as "promising."
The sale not only addresses Taiwanese self-defense needs, but "also provides the Taiwan leadership with the confidence and the understanding that the United States provides critical support to Taiwan, and that gives them greater confidence and ability to interact across the straits in peaceful dialogue with their [People's Republic of China] counterparts," one of the officials said.
In the broader regional context, an official said, the sale also sends a message to other Asian countries that "the United States stands by its commitments," and "others that depend on the United States for the maintenance of peace and stability can be reassured that our support is unwavering."
The sale package includes Black Hawk tactical transport helicopters, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) anti-missile firing units, two Osprey class mine-hunting ships, Harpoon telemetry missiles and technical support for Taiwanese command and control communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, the officials said.
Although the sale has been pending since 2008, the United States formally informed Chinese officials of its intention earlier January 29, ahead of the administration's notification to the U.S. Congress. The officials acknowledged that the Chinese "certainly have expressed their concern about this sale," but have "not shared with us explicitly what they intend to do in response."
In the past, China has retaliated by cutting off military-to-military exchanges with the United States. One of the officials said, "We think there are lots of good reasons why they shouldn't [do this], and we have been telling them that."
The United States and China enjoy "a very mature relationship," with many common interests. "We would hope that we can agree to disagree on this question," one of the officials said.
"Even in the context of these announced arms sales, the U.S. government at the highest levels has made very clear that we desire a strong, endurable relationship with Beijing and that we believe that following through on our responsibilities and commitments sends the appropriate message to all concerned," one of the officials said.