The US has announced plans to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16A/B aircraft, but not to sell it F-16C/Ds. Although expected, many people in Taiwan found it difficult to hide their disappointment. However, it is precisely because of Beijing’s fierce opposition to the F-16C/D sale that Taiwan stands to receive many of the systems it has been eyeing for years.
Beijing made a show of anger about the upgrade, but one can imagine that inwardly it is satisfied with the outcome. Indeed, in the US-China-Taiwan scenario, Beijing has apparently walked away with the “second-best” result — preventing the US from selling Taipei the F-16C/Ds.
Fortunately, the US has compensated Taiwan with the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system capable of simultaneously detecting various types of fighter jets; access to the LINK 16 data system of the US Pacific Command, which allows for coordinated warfare; digital electric attack pods; and AIM-9X sidewinder missiles. It is entirely possible that the US would not have sold Taiwan these weapons had Beijing not raised such vociferous objections against the F-16C/D sale.
Following the announcement, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said Washington would promote safety and stability in the Taiwan Strait, serve as a basis for Taiwan’s security and peace and allow for continued cooperation and dialogue on economic exchanges with China, all of which are in the US’ interests.
Clearly, without the high degree of trust between the US and Taiwan, the former would never have sold Taipei such high-tech weapons systems. In a soon-to-be-published report on the modernization of the Taiwanese air force’s military power, the Pentagon will recommend that Taiwan purchase the F-35B, the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the F-35 aircraft.
The US’ deliberative process for weapons sales to Taiwan apparently takes a range of factors into account, including the overall Asia-Pacific situation, US “coopetition” with China, Sino-US military exchanges and the situation in the Strait. A change in any of the above could lead the US to amend its decision vis-a-vis weapons sales to Taiwan.
China recently published a white paper emphasizing its six core interests, many of which concern Taiwan. Beijing has not given up its political intention to unify with Taiwan and has been chipping away at Taiwan’s national defense and security.
In the pursuit of its grand strategy, Beijing is going beyond its previous policy of “concealing one’s strengths and biding one’s time,” suggesting it will not be content with playing the role of peacekeeper. This is causing other countries within the Asia-Pacific region to believe that China is inherently expansionist.
There are quite a few ways in which the US and Taiwan are cooperating on the issue of security, weapons sales being but one of them. In order to prevent its Asia-Pacific allies from getting the impression that the US is bowing to pressure from Beijing, Washington should consider adding a F-35B training course for Taiwanese pilots, allowing a technology transfer in the production of F-16C/D fighters and AV-8 Harrier jump jets, augmenting the joint Air-Sea Battle training program and perhaps even helping Taiwan develop the technology to produce diesel-electric submarines.
The past few weeks have demonstrated that the more China has objected to US weapon sales to Taiwan, the more the US was willing to provide Taiwan with a set of defensive weapons systems because of considerations of its overall Asia-Pacific strategy. Beijing may appear to have secured a victory, but it has also caused Taiwanese to be increasingly wary of potential cross-strait political and military talks.
Edward Chen is a professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of American Studies.
Translated by Paul Cooper
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and