A leading Taiwan supporter in the US Congress has warned that many US lawmakers are fed up with the failure of the Legislative Yuan to pass a special arms budget to purchase US weaponry, and that this may affect their support for Taiwan.
Steve Chabot of Ohio, a founding co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, said in Washington on Tuesday that Taiwan must pass a military bud-get that will give it the clout to deflect any attack by China, especially in view of the latter's rapid military modernization.
"If this doesn't move forward in the near future, there are many members of Congress here who may reevaluate their support, the extent of their support to Taiwan," Chabot told a seminar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
"I want to be very frank with you: I am very disappointed that this special budget has languished," he said.
"I want to send the message as clearly and strongly as I can: It is time to get that military budget passed so that Taiwan is strong, and it is much less likely that the People's Republic of China [PRC] would perceive Taiwan as being weak and take hostile action against it," he said.
Chabot's comments are the latest in a series of warnings from Bush administration officials and members of Congress about the opposition pan-blue alliance's efforts to stymie the release of the funds to buy the special-budget items, which US President George W. Bush agreed to sell to Taiwan in April 2001.
These include up to eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft.
But it would also include three PAC III anti-missile batteries that have been moved from the special budget to the regular annual budget.
Just a week ago, Edward Ross of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency told a US-Taiwan defense industry conference in San Diego that more and more US government officials, congressmen and business people are asking whether Washington should continue to provide for Taiwan's defense if Taipei itself does not invest in it.
He complained that the special budget has become a "battered ball [that] has been kept in play more to entertain the players -- the politicians -- than to serve the real needs of Taiwan."
Earlier in the month, James Keith, the US State Department's special adviser for East Asia and chief China expert, told a congressional commission that the US "wants results" on the military bills.
The issue "requires whatever it takes in terms of the ruling party and the opposition parties coming together to produce positive results," Keith told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
At the same hearing, Representative Robert Simmons, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, warned of the military threat to Taiwan if the Legislative Yuan does not pass the arms budgets.
"Despite the grave danger it faces [from China], the Republic of China on Taiwan may make the situation worse by failing to move forward with a much-needed special budget to fund critical defense requirements," he said.
In May, 33 members of the House wrote a letter to former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (
A number of congressmen are planning to travel to Taipei next month to take part in the Oct. 10 National Day celebrations, and have signaled that the weapons sales will be a major topic of their discussions with Taiwan's leaders.
Chabot, like other Washington officials and politicians, has conceded that as a democracy Taiwan has the right to make its own defense spending decisions to assure it is "strong enough to deter hostile actions by the PRC."
"The United States has indicated that we will be there to back Taiwan. But to allow the strengthening of Taiwan's military to drag on for years and years is frustrating more and more members of the US Congress," he said.
"If Taiwan is strong," he said, "it will probably never be militarily tested. If Taiwan is weak, the challenge may come sooner than you think."