Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Taiwan must fend for itself

By Marc Plumb

The EU plan to lift the arms embargo against China does not seem to make any sense given the unstable situations in the Taiwan Strait, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and within China itself. In addition, China's need to secure energy resources makes the lifting of the ban even more perplexing.

Recently, the French defense minister made the statement that sales of weapons technologies to China could slow Beijing's push to develop its own capabilities. It seems more likely that the PLA looks at it a different way, which is they can quickly implement more lethal, precision technology, reverse-engineer the designs and leapfrog years of research and development.

The Chinese already have some of the most advanced weapons systems on the planet, including the Russian-made, nuclear-tipped, supersonic Sunburn and Oynx missiles. Mounted on their Mig-29s, warships, mobile launchers and subs, these missiles reportedly render aircraft carriers obsolete. The upgraded, undetectable Onyx's impact velocity is supposedly so powerful it does not need a nuclear tip in order to sink a carrier or supertanker. The HMS Sheffield and USS Stark are reminders of what undetectable missiles can do. The Iranians supposedly have them as well, so any carrier in the Persian Gulf this summer may be a sitting duck.

The Taiwanese should be concerned about these missiles, and also by the Israeli-made and recently upgraded Harpy anti-radar drone that China has deployed in the strait. China's use of this weapon may be the reason why the US does not want to sell Taiwan a sinkable AEGIS destroyer. With these weapons China may be able to control the sea lanes in the Strait and cut off a large part of the oil flow to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. If Taiwan doesn't upgrade their weapons and communication systems soon, they may as well invest in building more underground malls/fallout shelters with plenty of pao-mein packages in storage.

Why else is China pushing so hard to lift the EU arms ban? The reasons that I can come up with are: First, dissatisfaction with the quality and maintenance of the goods they currently purchase from their No. 1 supplier, Russia. Second, perhaps they see Israel, their second largest supplier, as someone they can't depend on in the long term since the Israelis are pushing the US to get involved in Iran, while Iran and China just signed huge liquefied petroleum gas and oil contracts. The US is also getting firmer on what Israel can resell to China.

Third, perhaps for purely business reasons, China may need access to EU weapons to help push down the cost of Russian and Israeli arms.

Fourth, China may be able to expedite the purchases of already planned upgrades to their existing European weapon systems. Fifth, China sees it as a way to upgrade the logistics and management of their defense industries.

Sixth, EU/Chinese stockholder pressure on investment in Chinese defense contractors. In return the EU not only wants the big ticket military orders, but is also looking for power plant, subway and Airbus orders as a way to balance their China trade deficit.

For many in the US, what is most troubling is the way the US has let Israel get away with weapons sales to China for so many years. US troops may have to face the same weapons that they co-developed and paid for, such as the missiles seen during the EP-3E surveillance plane incident in 2001. To make matters worse, Iraq and Iran's "liberation from tyranny" is not only about strategic control of oil, but protection of their country. The compromises our leaders make are a disgrace, as is the power of the lobby groups and banking interests.

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