Taiwan must be alert to PRC threat: senator

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Sun, Feb 10, 2013 - Page 1

A US senator is warning Taiwan to “wake up” and realize that as the threat from China grows, so grows the nation’s vulnerability.

There is an urgent need to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, Republican Senator John Cornyn said in a statement read on Friday to a Taiwan conference at the Heritage Foundation.

Cornyn has been one of the strongest of all advocates on Capitol Hill for selling Taiwan the 66 F-16C/D aircraft it has been trying to buy for the past seven years.

The fighters, made by Lockheed Martin, are built in Texas and would boost the US economy and provide large numbers of jobs in Cornyn’s district if the administration of US President Barack Obama would allow the sale to go through.

“In the face of China’s aggressive military modernization and belligerent attitude towards Taiwan, these F-16 fighters have become increasingly important and also highly symbolic for Taiwan,” Cornyn said.

He said that Obama was refusing to make the sale because of objections from China.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] must not be allowed to dictate US policy in this increasingly important part of the world,” Cornyn said.

However, the senator said at the same time that he was “disappointed” that Taiwan seemed to have “backed off” its pursuit of new F-16s, “especially after so many of its friends in Congress went out on a limb to help them.”

“When it comes to Taiwan’s military capabilities, there seems to be a puzzling sense of complacency in Taipei,” Cornyn said.

“Without aggressive and consistent advocacy by Taiwan for its own interests, it will be nearly impossible for its friends in Congress to push through the sale of F-16s or other advanced weapons,” he said.

The senator said that Taipei must find the political will to increase the nation’s defense budget, which he said was cut each year from 2009 through 2011.

“Taiwan’s leaders also need to stop allowing themselves to be bullied by the Obama administration,” Cornyn said.

He said Taiwan should focus its efforts on making the case for its defensive needs to Congress, where it had “many friends who see Taiwan’s security interests as intertwined with America’s.”

Cornyn concluded that at the start of the new US Congress, Taiwan and its “strongest supporters” must recommit to strengthening the ties that bind the two nations together.

He said the US and Taiwan had a shared commitment to democracy and a common interest in promoting peace and stability in the region.