Taiwan spending on US lobbyists to push F-16C/D sale

HARD AT WORK::The nine lobbying companies are still getting paid to work on persuading influential members of Congress to sell to Taiwan the planes it needs

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 1

Taipei has employed nine different lobbying companies and spent more than US$1 million so far this year in an attempt to persuade Washington to sell it F-16C/D aircraft, according to The Hill, a paper focusing on Capitol Hill.

Most of the campaign has been aimed at pushing the US Congress to put pressure on US President Barack Obama.

Those efforts have been led by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US (TECRO) in Washington.

According to The Hill, the lobbyists now say that Obama decided against the F-16 sale “for fear of provoking China.”

Sean King, vice president of lobbyist Park Strategies, told The Hill: “Considering Taiwan would only use these planes for defensive purposes, it was a short-sighted blunder on the administration’s part not to sell Taiwan the new planes.”

“We can’t let ourselves be bullied by Beijing. After all, the United States is mainland China’s No. 1 nation-state export market. Beijing needs us more than we sometimes realize,” King said.

US Justice Department records seen by The Hill show that former Republican senators Alfonse D’Amato and Frank Murkowski and former Republican representative Vito Fossella are among the lobbyists on Taiwan’s payroll.

Lobbyists from Park Strategies — D’Amato’s firm — contacted members of Congress 44 times about the F-16 sale and have been paid US$250,000 so far this year.

Another lobbying company, Orion Strategies — headed by Randy Scheunemann, a foreign policy adviser to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign — has earned US$78,000 working on the F-16 campaign.

Among other tactics, the lobbyists helped persuade 181 House members and 45 senators to sign letters to the White House pushing for the sale.

It appears the lobbyists are still being paid and are now trying to build support for congressional bills that would force Obama to sell the F-16s to Taiwan.

While difficult, passing such a bill is “possible,” one of the lobbyists says.

In an article headlined “The Taiwanese Disconnect,” the Wall Street Journal said this week that the decision not to sell the F-16s was a “victory for China” and added: “While it’s true Washington must put its own interests first, those interests aren’t served by helping turn Taiwan into a de facto garrison for the People’s Liberation Army.”

And Joseph Bosco, writing in the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, said: “It is far too fatalistic to conclude that Communist China’s incorporation of democratic Taiwan is inevitable and equally defeatist to believe that the US cannot realistically prevent such an outcome.”

“The Obama administration’s upgrades to Taiwan’s current fleet of F-16s cannot match the capabilities of China’s Su-27 and Su-30 fighter aircraft, but the faster new F-16C/D models which Taiwan has urgently requested would fit the bill,” said Bosco, a national security consultant who served as the China desk officer at the Pentagon from 2005 to 2006.