An expert in Asian security affairs is calling on US President Barack Obama to sell more arms to Taiwan.
In a plea published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Shirley Kan said the president has “failed to exercise leadership” by not selling much-needed weapons.
Kan, who recently retired from the US Congressional Research Service, has written a personal analysis of Obama’s policy on arms sales to Taiwan and says that the policy needs “credibility and clarity.”
Considered to be one of Washington’s best-informed experts on US policy on Taiwan, Kan was not free to express her own views until now.
“US leadership and credibility regarding the rebalance to Asia requires decisive, urgent action regarding Taiwan,” she wrote.
“That policy should include tangible follow-up actions to support Taiwan, maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific and help Taiwan avoid coercion and conflict,” Kan wrote.
Obama has failed to notify the US Congress of major foreign military sales to Taiwan for almost four years.
“As Congress will soon recess in August, the president has an imperative to submit arms sales for Congressional review,” she wrote.
She says that Obama’s “inaction” cannot be explained by a lack of defensive requirements, by a lack of interest and funding in Taiwan or by military-to-military contacts with China.
Kan said that leaves three other explanations: a shift in policy, a decision to wait until after a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in September or that the administration is timing the arms sales to influence the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan scheduled for January.
“To dispel dangerous perceptions that the administration is at odds with US principles, policies and laws, Obama should now submit the pending notifications to Congress for major arms sales to Taiwan,” she wrote.
In particular, Kan is calling for Obama to notify Congress now that he is transferring two Perry-class frigates to Taiwan — an arms sale that has already been approved by Capitol Hill.
Kan said that at the same time, the president should give “a straight answer” to Congress, industry and Taiwan on whether to assist Taiwan’s diesel-electric submarine program.
“This option involves the approval or denial of technical assistance for Taiwan’s indigenous defense programs,” she wrote.
“The president should finalize decisionmaking to determine if Taiwan needs new fighters to replace aging aircraft,” Kan said. “Finally, Obama should review policy with transparency, consultation with Congress and coordination with allies, examining whether a new approach is needed to accommodate changing circumstances in the Taiwan Strait.”
Kan said that the Congress has ways to ensure presidential compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
It could write letters to elicit explanations about pending actions, consider legislation to require reports on the TRA’s implementation or hold up confirmations of nominees in the US Department of Defense or Department of State, she said.
“Along with restricting funds for spending for military contacts with China, especially as the Pentagon doubles down on such contacts, Congress could shift such spending for use in military cooperation with Taiwan,” Kan wrote.