A new 80-page report on US arms sales to Taiwan recommends a changed “status quo” with cutbacks on all sides.
Prepared by the EastWest Institute think tank, Threading the Needle is aimed at influencing the policies of both Washington and Beijing.
It has received early praise from such luminaries as former US secretary of state George Shultz and former US national security advisor General James Jones.
Shultz called the report “bold and pathbreaking,” while Jones said it advances the idea that it is possible to adhere to existing US law and policy, respect China’s legitimate concerns and “stand up appropriately for Taiwan — all at the same time.”
The major recommendation is that the US should calibrate arms deliveries to Taiwan in a way that the total dollar amount provided in any given year does not exceed the inflation-adjusted peak level of the 1979-to-1982 period.
This would mean unilaterally setting a voluntary annual cap on US arms deliveries to Taiwan of US$941 million in inflation-
adjusted 2012 dollars, the report says.
By way of return, the report recommends that China should “unilaterally, voluntarily and verifiably” cut its missile force facing Taiwan.
The report says Beijing should maintain all missiles in garrison, redeploy one of the current five short-range ballistic missile brigades under the People’s Liberation Army’s 52nd Base further inland and out of range of Taiwan, and dismantle the physical infrastructure of that brigade.
In addition, the report says that China should increase the transparency of its missile deployments facing Taiwan by periodically publishing key developments and numbers in authoritative government white papers.
“The US should continue to sell defensive arms to Taiwan for the foreseeable future, within the constraints of existing US law and policy,” the report says.
It also recommends that the US should unbundle future Taiwan arms sales notifications to Congress and instead submit notifications on a “regular, predictable and normalized schedule.”
“The US should signal its continued unwavering commitment to preserving and promoting
extensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural and other relations with Taiwan, including by enhancing senior-level exchanges with Taiwan,” the report says.
Written by the EastWest Institute’s China, East Asia and US Program director Piin-Fen Kok and institute vice president David Firestein, the report says that the next two-and-a-half years present a “unique but small” political window for relations between the US and China.
“The timing is ripe for a renewed discussion on how the US and China can manage their differences over this historically contentious issue,” the report says. “The Taiwan arms sales issue is fundamentally a political issue rather than a military, diplomatic, foreign-policy or economic one.”
A better “status quo” is achievable, the report says, adding: “As long as mainland China’s political and social systems differ from Taiwan’s to the stark degree they currently do, US arms sales to Taiwan will continue.”
“Though there are ways to decrease tensions associated with arms sales there is no ultimate ‘solution’ that is independent of a resolution of the core issue of differing political and social systems,” it says.