Sun, Dec 13, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Pressure grows in US for more regular Taiwan arms sales

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter, in Washington

With the US believed to be ready to announce a new US$1 billion arms sales package for Taiwan, pressure is growing to further increase the flow of weapons and to make future sales on a more regular basis.

“We should be seeing even more regular transfers of equipment that would help shore up Taiwanese security,” US House Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Eliot Engel said.

He was speaking as the committee passed the Taiwan Naval Support Act, urging US President Barrack Obama to quickly transfer at least two guided-missile frigates to the nation.

The transfer is expected to be part of a new arms package to be sent for US Congressional approval before the end of this month.

“I know sales to Taiwan are always a touchy issue because our dealings with China are sensitive,” Engel said.

“We don’t want to derail our work with China on issues of mutual concern, but our desire not to upset Beijing shouldn’t come at the expense of Taiwan’s security,” he added.

Earlier, at an Atlantic Council seminar, Project 2049 Institute research fellow Ian Easton said a new arms package would contain up to four of the Perry-class frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, Boeing Apache helicopters and a variety of missiles.

It would be the first arms package to be announced in four years and is not expected to contain the items the nation wants the most — diesel-electric submarines and F-16 jets.

Nevertheless, Atlantic Council senior fellow Robert Manning said: “I can assure you China will yell and scream no matter what is in Obama’s package.”

Easton joined other think tank academics in encouraging Washington to resume annual defense talks with Taiwan.

In the past, these talks have led to arms sales offers being made on a regular yearly basis.

“With Chinese aggression increasing and Obama’s term drawing to a close, the time is right to restate the case for US support of Taiwan,” Hudson Institute director Seth Cropsey said.

Writing on the Real Clear Defense Web site, Cropsey said Obama and his successor would underscore the US’ reliability as an ally, help assure the security of an important democratic state and enhance East Asian security by supporting Taiwan “in words and actions.”

In particular, Cropsey wanted Washington to bolster the nation’s naval capabilities — especially its submarine force — and make the Republic Of China Navy a “potent weapon against a much larger PLAN [People’s Liberation Army Navy] and an effective deterrent.”

He said: “An effective Taiwanese submarine force would help protect the island against amphibious assault or blockade and conduct other naval operations that would increase security.”

American Action Forum director of defense analyst Rachel Hoff said that the four year gap since the last round of arms sales to Taiwan is the longest period of time without an arms deal since 1979.

She said the new arms sale package would increase tension in the US-China relationship, but that Beijing was unlikely to respond by fundamentally challenging US interests.

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