Sat, Sep 29, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Council cheers US weapons resolution

UNPRECEDENTED BREAK The US State Department is likely behind Washington's delay in accepting a letter from Taiwan that requests pricing data for jet fighters

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US-Taiwan Business Council applauded the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee for approving a resolution to prod the administration of US President George W. Bush to sell F-16C/D fighter aircraft to Taiwan.

The council complained that US opposition to the sale, resulting from its annoyance with actions by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), represented an unprecedented break with the US' historical commitment to Taiwan's security and could alter the "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait.

"Arms sales are an aspect of America's commitment to Taiwan's defense under the TRA [Taiwan Relations Act], of preserving the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait and of maintaining the `status quo.' It is not, and should not be, a short-term tool for censure," council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.

"America has usually separated the short-term ebbs and flows of US policy toward Taiwan from our long-term commitment to maintaining peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, an aspect of which is the arms sales process," Hammond-Chambers said in a statement the day after the committee unanimously approved the resolution.

"No administration, going back to [former US] president Carter, has undertaken to weaken Taiwan's military capabilities in order to censure a sitting Taiwan president, even if his actions have been viewed as contrary to US policy. The precedent set raises serious concerns about the long-term viability of a US security commitment to Taiwan," he said.

Taiwan's representative to the US, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), also expressed hope that the committee's action would push the Bush administration to act on the sale.

"I really appreciate the House Foreign Affairs Committee for adopting that resolution," he said. "We certainly hope that our request for F-16s can be answered in a positive way very shortly."

"One thing is clear," Wu said. "Taiwan is falling behind in its own defense capabilities and procurement of the F-16s is just one way for Taiwan to beef up its own defense. And we hope that the United States will agree with Taiwan on Taiwan's request for the F-16s," Wu told the Taipei Times.

The House committee's resolution is based on the TRA requirement that the US make sufficient arms available to ensure Taiwan's defense and that sales decisions be "based solely" on Taiwan's defense needs.

While not directly accusing the Bush administration of playing politics with the arms sales as a response to Chen's actions, the resolution and its sponsors ostensibly had that in mind. The resolution was rushed through a committee meeting on Wednesday in hope that the full House would approve it in time to reverse the administration's stonewalling on the sale.

While the Legislative Yuan this year approved a US$488 million budget to start the purchase process, the money was made contingent on Taiwan's receiving pricing data from the US by Oct. 31.

So far, Taiwan's representatives have been stymied in their effort to submit a required Letter of Request (LOR) by the US State Department, likely as a response to Chen's actions, including his plan for a referendum on UN membership under the name "Taiwan."

Until the US accepts the letter, it cannot give the pricing data.

"The United States, in denying Taiwan the opportunity to submit an LOR, has undertaken an unprecedented action. No NATO or non-NATO ally has previously been denied the right to submit an LOR," Hammond-Chambers said.

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