There was speculation among US-based China experts this week that the White House was growing increasingly frustrated with China and could change policies and move closer to Taiwan, even agreeing to sell it new weapon systems.
However, sources close to the administration of US President Barack Obama told the Taipei Times that it was not considering a change in policy.
And while there were concerns about Beijing’s recent belligerence — particularly in the East and South China seas — Taiwan was unlikely to be involved in any US reaction.
Much of the speculation was triggered by an article written by George Washington University professor Robert Sutter, who said the Obama administration had adopted a harder public line against China’s actions and had deepened security cooperation with allies and others threatened by Chinese provocation.
Published on the Center for Strategic and International Studies Web site, the article has been the subject of much discussion by other China experts, with some claiming that Sutter was reflecting the administration’s thinking.
The article was reported in the Taipei Times yesterday.
“Careful consideration needs to be given to options that focus on the many weaknesses and vulnerabilities China faces in dealing with the US,” Sutter wrote.
Among other options, Sutter suggested the US could complicate Chinese defense plans and overall strategy toward Taiwan by allowing the sale of 66 F-16C/D jets “long sought by the Taiwan government.”
“Another option would involve a more active US posture in support of Taiwanese free expression and identity represented by the so-called Sunflower movement on the island,” he said.
One source close to the administration said no one in a policymaking position had suggested selling the F-16C/Ds to Taiwan as a response to China’s moves.
Another source said no serious consideration was being given right now to any new arms sales to Taiwan, and a senior Democratic source in the US Congress confirmed that situation.
US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers echoed the comments.
“I haven’t heard anything that suggests a change in course for the Obama administration regarding Taiwan,” he said in response to questions from the Taipei Times.
Hammond-Chambers said he did not see a change in the administration’s posture concerning arms sales to the nation.
“The Obama administration has made a clear decision to freeze arms sales to Taiwan in exchange for military-to-military relations with China,” he said.
“It is a false choice, but one that became manifest post the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16s, but not sell new fighters,” Hammond-Chambers said.
“That decision was telegraphed to the Chinese when then-US secretary of defense [Leon] Panetta admitted China had been given a ‘heads up’ on the sale. That incidentally was a violation of the six assurances,” he said.