Resolution on F-16s in US Congress

BALANCE OF POWER::Aside from the resolution, which has broad, bipartisan support, a senior official said Beijing would not influence US decisions on arms sales to Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in WASHINGTON

Fri, Apr 15, 2011 - Page 1

A resolution calling on US President Barack Obama to quickly approve the sale of advanced F-16 fighters to Taiwan — and expeditiously deliver them — was introduced in the US Congress on Wednesday.

In a related development, a senior US official told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that objections from Beijing would not influence decisionmaking on arms sales to Taiwan.

The resolution was introduced by Democratic Representative Robert Andrews and Republican Representative Scott Garrett.

This in itself was remarkable because the two represent opposite ends of the political spectrum and give some indication of the widespread support for the sale from both sides in Washington.

“The President should take immediate steps to redress the deteriorating balance of airpower [across the Taiwan Strait] and move forward expeditiously with the sale to Taiwan of new F-16C/D aircraft and upgrades of the existing F-16A/B fleet,” the resolution said.

It reflected the concern of Taiwan’s supporters in the US that the Obama administration has been delaying a decision on arms sales because of fears that Beijing will react by breaking off all US-China military-to-military contacts.

“The continuing deterioration of Taiwan’s F-16 fleet stands in stark contrast to China’s unending growth of its defense budget,” said Bob Yang (楊英育), president of the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs.

“Not only is Taiwan’s national security interest at stake in this process, but the US national interest and US credibility and reputation in the region as well,” he said.

“China’s motives are clear. They want to annex Taiwan and if they do not succeed in doing so peacefully, they will do it by force. It is therefore high time for Congress to affirm the democratic notion of self-determination emphasizing that the future of Taiwan should be determined peacefully and solely by the people of Taiwan and not by China,” he added.

The resolution stated that the US has “vital security and strategic interests” in Taiwan and asked the US House of Representatives to express “grave concern” about the continued deployment of more than 1,400 ballistic missiles directed at Taiwan by China.

“The president should seek a public and unequivocal renunciation from the leaders of the People’s Republic of China of any threat or use of force against Taiwan and the region,” it states.

The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, is almost certain to give it support.

At the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearings, David Helvey — the US Department of Defense’s principal director for East Asia policy — said the Obama administration remained fully committed to its legal obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons.

He said that the White House understood Beijing’s objection to arms sales to Taiwan, but that concerns China would break off military contacts if the arms sales went ahead would not influence its decision.

“The larger challenge for us is to be able to have a discussion with our Chinese friends to get them to see and identify that there’s a need for a continuous dialogue and to maintain open channels of communication between our two militaries,” Helvey said.