The passage of the first-ever international treaty regulating global trade in conventional weapons by the UN General Assembly has raised some concern over its effect on US arms sales to Taiwan, but officials from both sides yesterday dismissed the concerns.
On Tuesday, the UN overwhelmingly approved the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to improve the regulation of the global arms trade, estimated to be worth between US$60 billion and U$70 billion a year, and ranging from light weapons to battle tanks and warships.
The official UN tally showed that member states voted in favor by 154 votes, with three opposed and 23 abstentions. The US voted in favor and Iran, Syria and North Korea were against the treaty, while Russia, China, India and Saudi Arabia abstained.
Aside from concern that the ATT represents an infringement of the US’ Second Amendment — which protects US citizens’ right to possess firearms — among US senators who must ratify the treaty for the US to be a party, the treaty’s effect on US arms sales to Taiwan was a cause for concern.
In a statement on March 22 by US Senator James Inhofe, who has introduced an amendment that would prevent the US from entering the treaty, he said that such a treaty would require the US to implement laws as required by the treaty, instead of the national controls that are currently in place.
“This would also disrupt diplomatic and national security efforts by preventing our government from assisting allies like Taiwan, South Korea or Israel when they require assistance,” Inhofe said.
Asked by the Taipei Times if the provisions under the treaty would in any way affect US defense commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), American Institute in Taiwan spokesperson Sheila Paskman said the TRA, along with the US’ “one China” policy, “is the underpinning of the US relationship with Taiwan.”
“That will not change unless there is a change to the legislation relating to the Taiwan Relations Act or a change to the ‘one China’ policy. These have been US policy for over 30 years,” Paskman said.
A source said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has closely followed the negotiations and studied the possible effects of the treaty on US arms sales to Taiwan.
The source said the concerns over the impacts of US arms sales to Taiwan had already been addressed in some of its provisions.
Article 26 stipulates that the implementation of the treaty must not prejudice obligations undertaken by governments with regard to existing or future international agreements to which they are parties, where those obligations are consistent with the treaty, sources said, adding that it is also clearly stated in the preamble of the treaty that one of the guiding principles in the treaty was that the treaty would not intervene in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.
Ministry spokesperson Anna Kao (高安) said the ministry believes the US will continue to provide Taiwan with defense weapons necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, in line with the TRA and the US’ “six assurances.”
Taiwan’s arms procurement from the US has long been vital to its ability to maintain its self-defense capability to contribute peace and stability in the region, which meets international expectations and benefits all parties, she said.
The ATT adopted by the UN was designed to limit illicit weapons deals and to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers to promote global peace, Kao said, adding that Taiwan shared the same values with the UN in this regard.
Additional reporting by agencies