New F-16s looking unlikely, US daily says

UNKEPT PROMISES::The ‘Wall Street Journal’ said the US is reinforcing the impression that it will eventually allow the abandonment of Taiwan to become a ‘fait accompli’

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 - Page 3

A major US newspaper is reporting that despite representatives of both parties in the US Congress pushing US President Barack Obama to sell F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan, only the upgrading of older models “looks likely.”

“The Obama administration isn’t budging,” the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial.

The daily said that although the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) requires Washington to sell the arms Taiwan needs to defend itself, “Beijing has succeeded in intimidating successive administrations into deferring those sales.”

Under the headline “Unkept Promises to Taiwan” and the subhead “The US is rewarding Beijing’s tantrums over arms sales,” the Wall Street Journal said lawmakers were now pushing to upgrade the TRA.

The paper said the push had “little chance of passing,” but that it could serve a useful purpose by “putting the spotlight on America’s failure to live up to its promises.”

“The problem is not just China’s increasingly advanced and numerous fighters, but also its nearly 2,000 ballistic missiles that could hit Taiwanese airfields,” it said. “The Chinese will no doubt complain loudly about any proposed change to the TRA, just as they do when even modest arms sales to Taiwan are approved.”

“Beijing has suspended military-to-military ties with the US twice in the last three years over such sales. But it is the US that encourages such histrionics by reinforcing the impression that it will eventually allow the abandonment of Taiwan to become a fait accompli,” the paper said.

A better strategy, the newspaper said, would be to set a long-term objective for returning Taiwan to a viable position of being able to defend itself, so that it could negotiate with China from a position of strength.

“This would require reaching a bipartisan consensus on a program of future sales that would come into effect as long as China’s offensive buildup continues,” it said.

“Future administrations could then minimize the politicking by hewing to this program,” it said.

The newspaper said that once Beijing was conditioned to understand that its threats to hold the entire bilateral relationship hostage to this one issue were no longer working, “the outbursts would subside.”