US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has indicated for the first time that “China’s sensitivities” will be taken into consideration by US President Barack Obama when he decides whether to sell F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan.
Gates is expected to discuss the potential sale in talks with Chinese Minister of National Defense Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) at the Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore this weekend.
During a meeting with US reporters on the way to Singapore, Gates was asked if — in view of pressure building in Congress to let Taipei have the planes — the benefits to Taiwan’s security would outweigh the costs that would be incurred to the relationship with China.
He replied: “We do have obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] and we have this discussion in virtually every meeting that we have with the Chinese.”
“I would say that I think under both the [former US president George W.] Bush and Obama administrations, we have tried to thread the needle pretty carefully in terms of Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, but at the same time being aware of China’s sensitivities,” Gates said. “I think both administrations have done this very thoughtfully and very carefully. By the same token, just as the Chinese are very open with us about their concerns, we are also open with them about our obligations.”
Asked by the Taipei Times to comment on Gates’ comments and the potential F-16C/D sale, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, suggested that the secretary may have made an “awful blunder.”
“Secretary Gates has opened a very destabilizing question,” Fisher said. “Are US arms sales to Taiwan determined by obligations under the TRA or by China’s sensitivities? Where in the TRA does it state that the US will be mindful of China’s sensitivities regarding arms sales to Taiwan?”
“Right now, every other American treaty ally is wondering if US security guarantees are being affected by Washington’s consideration of China’s sensitivities,” he said. “If there was ever an American policy statement that deserved public repudiation, this is it.”
Fisher said that “in essence” Gates had suggested that both Bush and Obama had given a communist dictatorship the power to limit US security options in Asia.
“Is this a new US policy formulation or has Secretary Gates made an awful blunder?” Fisher asked. “The dictatorship in Beijing will be sensitive to every arms sale to Taiwan. China will never be satisfied with American concessions and war will not be deterred. It is imperative that the US move ahead with the sale of new F-16 fighters and upgrades for Taiwan’s current F-16s. China has pitched the Asian region into a dangerous arms race and selling weapons to Taiwan remains a critical American policy tool for deterring conflict.”
During his meeting with reporters, Gates was asked for his own views on the sale of F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan.
“I don’t have a view on that at this point,” Gates said.
Gates is retiring at the end of this month and will be replaced by CIA director Leon Panetta, who is expected to continue White House policies aimed at deepening a US-China strategic security dialogue.
In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was asked at an event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies if recent congressional pressure would have an impact on the decision to sell the F-16C/Ds.
“Every administration takes the TRA very seriously,” Campbell said. “We understand our responsibilities in that regard and we also recognize that the TRA requires a partnership between the executive and the legislative branch. The US understands our role with respect to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
EXTRADITION DEAL? A former prosecutor said that the US Department of Justice might ask Taiwan to extradite the men in return for the US doing something in return The US won arrest warrants for three Taiwanese men — a former president of China-based Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co (福建晉華) and two engineers — charged with stealing secrets from Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc. The effort to apprehend the three men — former Fujian Jinhua president Stephen Chen (陳正坤), and Ho Chien-ting (何建廷) and Wang Yong-ming (王永銘), who work for Taiwan-based United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) — is notable because they were charged in 2018 in the first case filed under the “China initiative” of US President Donald Trump’s administration targeting trade-secret theft, hacking and economic espionage. However, legal experts have said
There was a net reduction last year in the number of Taipei residents and this year is expected to set a 23-year high for population decline in the city, Ministry of the Interior statistics released yesterday showed. From January to last month, 18,861 more people moved out of Taipei than moved into the capital, an increase of 7,000 from the same period last year, the data showed. That is a 7.2 percent decrease in the city’s population since the start of the year, the biggest drop in both percentage and total number among all municipalities and counties nationwide, the data showed. The data
COUNCILS CLASH: The Mainland Affairs Council said a new office in Hong Kong is to assist people with issues related to investment, study and employment in Taiwan The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday denied an accusation by the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council that its Taiwanese counterpart in the territory was “interfering with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.” The Hong Kong council leveled the accusation after Taipei’s Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council this month announced it would establish a Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office to facilitate humanitarian aid for Hong Kongers. The new office is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday. The MAC yesterday asked the Hong Kong council to “not misinterpret” the government’s intentions. The two Taiwan-Hong Kong councils were established in 2010 to
IRRESPONSIBLE ATTITUDES? Some experts say the NHI system does not do enough to educate the public, or pay doctors to talk to patients, about healthy lifestyles While the life expectancy of Taiwanese newborns in 2018 reached 80.69 years, the number of years people spent in poor health hit a record high at 8.41 years, Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics showed on Saturday. Healthy life expectancy is calculated by a person’s life expectancy minus the time they spend in ill health, such as the loss of mobility, disabilities and chronic disease, based on medical records and calculations about the years they live with disabilities. The number of years that Taiwanese spend in poor health is increasing slowly, but steadily, rising by 0.46 years, or five-and-a-half months, between 2012