The Pentagon is being asked to guarantee that China plays no role in US decisions on arms sales to Taiwan.
House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul has written to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel seeking assurance that Beijing is not in the picture.
McCaul’s letter — sent on Friday — follows statements from a Chinese official that Hagel had agreed to consider setting up a joint task force on future arms sales to Taiwan.
“I believe it is a bad idea for the United States to invite aggressive powers into consultations on the security of America’s treaty allies or partners for whom the US has statutory security commitments,” Texas Republican McCaul wrote.
“I ask that you confirm that the US is fully committed to the defense of Taiwan and does not consult with China about sales of weapons to Taiwan, and that you affirm that we don’t have a policy of self-restraint on weapons sales to Taiwan,” he said in his letter.
McCaul said that he was “concerned” to hear the Chinese Ministry of Defense’s Office of Foreign Affairs director Guan Youfei (關友飛) discussing an Aug. 19 Pentagon meeting between Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan (常万全) and Hagel.
According to McCaul, Guan said that Hagel agreed to consider a joint task force on the issue of arms sales.
McCaul said in his letter the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) directs Congress and the White House to make defense articles available to Taiwan based solely on the “judgment of the needs of Taiwan.”
Another cornerstone of US policy toward Taiwan is the “six assurances” that then-US president Ronald Reagan issued in 1982, he said. These assurances state that the US will not hold prior consultations with China on arms sales to Taiwan.
“It is a policy that has successfully maintained peace in the Taiwan Strait while providing for Taiwan’s economic prosperity and political transformation, both of which are to the enormous benefit of the US,” McCaul said.
Beijing does not believe in the legitimacy of the TRA or of the “six assurances” because they “fly in the face of its aspirations to annex Taiwan by force,” Formosan Association of Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said.
“Chinese misinterpretation of what transpired during the Aug. 19 meeting has provided McCaul with an opportunity to seek reaffirmation from the Pentagon that there is no change in US policy on arms sales to Taiwan,” Kao said.
On Aug. 23, the Taipei Times quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying that the issue of arms sales to Taiwan did not come up during the earlier meeting between Chang and Hagel.
The US and China had agreed to set up working groups to discuss issues of mutual concern, but he had not heard of any specific working groups on arms sales to Taiwan, the official said responding to Guan’s remarks.