US President Barack Obama must show strong support for the vital security interests of Taiwan, a key strategic partner, when he meets Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the White House, US senators said in a letter to Obama.
The letter, signed by US senators John Cornyn, Robert Menendez and 10 other members of the upper house on Capitol Hill, said that as the rapid modernization and lack of transparency of China’s military troubled its neighbors, Obama should reinforce with Xi the US’ commitment to support the “robust democracy” and Washington’s “steadfast commitment” to Taiwan and its security.
The US Department of Defense reports that China’s large-scale military modernization has “a focus on Taiwan contingencies,” the letter said, with an offensive buildup of more than 1,000 ballistic missiles and an air force that remains primarily focused on “building the capabilities required to pose a credible military threat to Taiwan and US forces in East Asia.”
To this end, the signatories called on Obama to announce the next defensive arms package to Taiwan prior to Xi’s visit to the US.
Obama, who met Xi at the White House on Tuesday, made no such announcement. Although the letter, which was dated Feb. 10, did not specify the type of arms they were hoping Obama would announce prior to Xi’s arrival, this was presumably a reference to the 66 F-16C/D aircraft that Taiwan has been requesting for years.
Cornyn, who represents Texas, where a large Lockheed Martin Corp assembly plant is located, has taken a leading role in recent months in trying to secure the release of the F-16 to supplement Taiwan’s aging air force.
“[I]n the interest of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, Vice President Xi should renounce the use of force by China to resolve its political differences with Taiwan and take tangible measures to reduce China’s aggressive military posture opposite Taiwan,” the letter said.
Barring unforeseen developments in China, Xi is expected to replace Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party later this year and as president in March next year.
Chinese authorities must deal with democratic Taiwan on the basis of equality, the letter said, adding that the “continued denial of the existence of Taiwan under its current Republic of China [ROC] constitutional framework only fosters mistrust and complicates peaceful development” of relations in the Taiwan Strait.
“Taiwan’s future must be decided in Taipei, not in Beijing,” it said.
“To that end, we ask you [Obama] to make it clear that the United States has not only a statutory obligation under the Taiwan Relations Act, but an unwavering commitment to provide Taiwan with the tools necessary for its self-defense — and that no coercion or threatened aggression from China will be allowed to dictate U.S. policy toward our friend and ally, Taiwan,” the letter said.
Besides Taiwan, the senators also called on Obama to restate the strong stance taken by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the 2010 ASEAN ministerial conference, in which she emphasized Washington’s desire to see the various territorial disputes in the South China Sea resolved peacefully and through a “collaborative diplomatic process.”
China, which is involved in various disputes over a series of islets in the South China Sea, has occasionally used belligerent rhetoric to support its claims in the region and has launched a major program to modernize the People’s Liberation Army Navy and maritime security fleet.