The US has instituted a policy that makes it more difficult than ever for Taiwan to even ask to buy new weapons systems, US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said on Tuesday.
He said that under the policy — instituted, but not announced about two years ago — Taiwan has to ask special permission from Washington before it can submit a Letter of Request (LOR) for the pricing and availability of the weapons it needs.
“It’s unique to Taiwan; no other ally is under this restriction,” Hammond-Chambers said. “We continue to see subtle, but important downgrades in the way in which the US conducts its security relationship with Taiwan and we are worried.”
Speaking to the press as the 12th annual US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference closed in Annapolis, Maryland, Hammond-Chambers said that as of now, Taiwan is not submitting LORs and the US is not accepting them. He said the policy had not been formally announced and was unlikely to be.
“But the US-Taiwan Business Council’s network is excellent and we have a business relationship all the way through the Taiwan government and we understand this to be a clearly stated understanding between the US and Taiwan,” Hammond-Chambers said. “Taiwan will not submit LORs without first seeking permission from the US.”
Hammond-Chambers said the government was informed about the policy via word of mouth and not in writing.
“What the US is doing now is saying that it will not supply pricing and availability data for weapons unless Taiwan asks first if it can ask for the information,” he said. “It is unprecedented and not something we do with our other partners and allies, and not something we did with Taiwan up until recently. It is all about managing the process — it is about control. My view now is that this is about the China relationship and about mil-to-mil [military-to-military] relations with China.”
The implication is that Washington is further restricting US arms sales to Taiwan to promote relations with Beijing, he said.
He said the administration of US President Barack Obama is “pocketing a peace dividend before peace has broken out.”
Hammond-Chambers said the Obama administration did not see any issues today in the Taiwan Strait and they are not “looking down the road” to see what must be done to stop things getting worse in the future.
“They have put a complete hold on arms sales — they are frozen,” he said.
While he would not say exactly when the new policy went into force, he said that the council had been informed about it by “multiple sources at the highest levels of government.”
Hammond-Chambers said that some members of the US Congress are aware of the policy.
“Why is the US so apathetic about moving forward with defense programs for Taiwan?” he asked. “We are now in the longest period on record for no arms sale. It has been almost two years since the F-16A/B upgrades, and there are no new programs in the pipeline and no LORs accepted.”
Hammond-Chambers said that from a “substance standpoint,” the conference had been “as good as any we have had.”
He said he had been concerned that the extended freeze on arms sales would negatively impact turnout, but that numbers were consistent with the past.
When reached for comment, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said Taiwan has not been informed by the US not to submit LORs, adding that Taiwan appreciates the US for its long-term support of the nation’s defense requirements and hopes the US continues to sell Taiwan arms in view of the military threats Taiwan faces.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang