As China intensifies its campaign to stop US President Barack Obama from selling F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan, some friends of Taipei are hitting back.
The Wall Street Journal has published an editorial on its Web site, warning Obama not to appease Beijing.
It says that Beijing is “lobbying furiously” against the F-16 deal and that if the US administration gives in “China will conclude it can intimidate the US from assisting its allies.”
“Taiwan’s democracy will be under increasing threat, and the US could pay a heavy price later,” it says. “If the US allowed Taiwan to be swallowed up, American allies everywhere would conclude that US security promises are meaningless.”
The F-16C/Ds would provide Taiwan, the Journal says, with the ability to defend itself long enough for the US to resupply it with arms without getting directly involved in the fighting, much as it did for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“Unfortunately, President Obama seems to be leaning against the sale,” the Journal says. “The default position of US diplomats is to avoid a row with a larger power like China, especially when the Chinese threaten unspecified damage to the relationship.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met last week with China’s top official on Taiwan affairs to brief him on the upcoming fighter plane decision.
The Journal says that the most likely outcome is a compromise — a deal to refurbish Taiwan’s older F-16s, but not sell any new planes.
“The administration will whisper that it can always sell Taiwan stealth F-35s later, but this is probably a nonstarter for technology transfer reasons alone,” the Journal says.
According to the editorial: “Such an abdication would make Beijing happy, but it would kick the can of Taiwan’s deteriorating defenses into the future, when it will only become a bigger problem. As important, it would send a message of US weakness when China is explicitly attempting to push the US out of the Asia-Pacific region so it has no political or military rival.”
The editorial follows the publication on the Internet of an equally strong but unsigned commentary attacking “Obama’s failing Taiwan policy.”
Described as “perspectives on Taiwan from America’s capital,” the commentary has caused a stir amongst Washington’s Asia watchers with speculation centering on a scholar employed by one of the leading think tanks as the most likely author.
The commentary says that within Washington there is a “creeping abandonment” of democratic Taiwan in favor of an increasingly assertive authoritarian China.
“While difficult to pinpoint,” it says, “one could trace the problem to a select number of senior political appointees close to the president, weak leadership at the senior levels of the Pentagon and an increasingly sophisticated and effective PRC [People’s Republic of China] influence operations campaign.”