I find the pan-blue camp's refusal to support the arms package quite disturbing for a number of reasons. First, it sends the wrong message to China and the US. To China it says that Taiwan is not interested in maintaining strong air and naval defenses. This amounts to a de facto policy of appeasement.
Such a policy will only embolden China and indeed, should re-unification occur, it will do so increasingly on Beijing's terms and not Taiwan's.
To the US the message reinforces the "status quo" of national indecision. Is Taiwan a real country or merely a "rebel province" masquerading as a country?
Given the domestic and Chinese criticism that the Bush administration received when it first offered the package in 2001, I find it alarming and bizarre that Taiwan cannot make a decision to accept or reject the proposal.
Indeed, the Bush offer was a policy reversal from the Clinton years. Should Taiwan find a Democrat in the White House in 2009, I would not be surprised if the present offer is withdrawn with no substitutes.
Furthermore, the pan-blue camp's criticism that the weapons are overpriced and aren't state-of-the-art -- and therefore should be "given" to Taiwan -- is ridiculous and demonstrates the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) limited scope of thinking.
Should the US, by this logic, simply "hand out" our latest cutting edge weapons to Canada, Japan, Britain and whomever else we deem to be our "friend," such a policy would not receive one vote in the US Congress.
Personally, I do not see how the US government, whose first obligation is the defense of US territory and its citizens, could even sell the latest weapons to a military that today is Taiwanese but tomorrow could be China's.
To do so would be irresponsible. It will not happen.
The fact remains that the weapons package is aimed at adequately protecting Taiwan's naval and air theaters of operation, both of which are absolutely paramount in successfully repelling a Chinese attack.
The package also gives Taiwan more time -- albeit very limited time -- to do what needs to be done: declare Taiwan a real, independent republic and acknowledge the People's Republic of China as the real China.
Department of Geography, Minnesota State University