Thu, Nov 14, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Commission urges Congress to watch Taiwan arms sales

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission has recommended that the US Congress keep a closer eye on US arms sales to Taiwan. It also wants the White House to report to Congress on every decision to “reject, delay or alter” arms sales requests from Taipei.

The recommendations are contained in a draft copy of the commission’s annual report, which is to be released later this month.

While the report could still be changed, it is unlikely that the formal conclusions will be altered at this stage. The section of the report dealing with Taiwan contains eight recommendations from the congressionally appointed commission.

It recommends that Congress amend the US National Defense Authorization Act to direct the Pentagon to include more information about Taiwan in its annual report, including “detailed assessments” of the nation’s military’s current and probable future strategies, force structures, capabilities and technology development.

It also recommends the White House give Congress unclassified details of each of Taiwan’s requests to purchase US weapons and describe Taiwan’s justification for each request, as well as the administration’s response.

The commission wants Congress to direct the US Department of State to provide an unclassified report that explains how the department’s approach to diplomatic relations with Taiwan is affected by the nation’s “unique status.”

“The report should address how these constraints and restraints impact the US’ ability to carry out the rebalance to Asia,” the commission said.

The commission also recommended Congress encourage the White House to continue discussion between Taiwan and the US concerning a bilateral investment agreement.

Once the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is signed, Congress should support Taiwan’s membership, and Cabinet-level US officials should be encouraged to visit Taiwan to promote commercial, technical and people-to-people exchanges, it said.

The commission said Congress should permit official travel to Taiwan by senior State Department and Pentagon officials and Congress should require anyone appointed to be director of the American Institute in Taiwan to be confirmed by the Senate.

It is a list of potentially significant changes in the relationship that could bring the two countries closer, it said.

While gathering information for its report, the commission met with Taiwanese officials in Washington and Taipei, and held talks with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in July.

“The opposition DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] has increased engagement with the US to repair perceived damage to bilateral ties and to rebrand the party’s image as a ‘responsible’ alternative to the ruling KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party],” the report said.

“Since the late 1990s, China’s military modernization has focused on improving its capabilities for Taiwan conflict scenarios that include US intervention,” the report added.

“The key shortcoming in Taiwan’s defensive capabilities is its inability to survive initial Chinese air and missile strikes due to insufficient infrastructure hardening and lack of mobile systems,” the report said.

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