The US has frozen arms sales to Taiwan until the end of the Beijing Olympics and possibly until US President George W. Bush leaves office, the latest edition of Defense News said.
The periodical reported on Monday that the US State Department had elected to freeze all congressional notifications — an essential process prior to approval — for weapons sales to Taiwan.
The sales would amount to some US$12 billion for the acquisition of 30 Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, eight diesel electric submarines, four PAC-3 air defense missile batteries and 66 F-16 fighter aircraft.
Twelve Orion maritime patrol aircraft were not subject to the freeze because they had already been approved for delivery, the periodical said.
Sources told Defense News that the unprecedented move came at the behest of Beijing-friendly officials at the US State Department and officials at the US embassy in Beijing, who believe that Washington should “placate China.” The purpose was to smooth the way for talks between China and Taiwan and for Bush to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, they said.
The periodical quoted Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute think tank and former country director for China and Taiwan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as saying the freeze contravened the Taiwan Relations Act, a piece of legislation supporting Taiwan’s security that came into effect when Washington recognized Beijing 30 years ago.
The Defense News sources disagreed on when the freeze would be lifted, but there were reported to be fears in Taiwanese circles that the move could become permanent after the inauguration of the new US president amid warming ties between Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and Beijing.
Yesterday, the Ministry of National Defense told the Taipei Times that “everything is under control.”
“I have no comment on the story, but I can assure you that our regular communication and cooperation with the US remain intact,” ministry spokeswoman Colonel Lisa Chi (池玉蘭) said.
But a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman expressed concerns over the report.
“If that happens, then I think the KMT should take all responsibility,” DPP legislative caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said.
Lai said that all the weapons on the list were items that the previous DPP government had sought to purchase from the US for a long time.
He said much of the procurement process had been delayed because of the KMT’s boycott in the legislature’s National Defense Committee, now known as the Diplomacy and National Defense Committee.
“Ever since Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) entered the Presidential Office, the KMT has been pushing the country in China’s favor. It does not surprise me that the US has come up with this decision at this time,” Lai said.
Diplomacy and National Defense Committee member and KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said he was not concerned by the development.
He said any freeze would bring a degree of relief to cross-strait ties and that the US wanted to see a harmonious relationship develop between China and Taiwan.
Lin, however, said he believed the US would sell the weapons to Taiwan in the end anyway.
KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) had no comment on the matter when approached by the Taipei Times.
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