Taiwan’s planned increase to next year’s defense budget, although a step in the right direction, is insufficient to deter China’s threat, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs (IPSA) David Helvey said on Tuesday.
Helvey, who is performing the duties of US assistant secretary of defense for IPSA, made the remarks during the closing keynote speech of a two-day US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, a transcript released by the US-Taiwan Business Council showed.
The “existential threat Taiwan faces from China” is a focal topic for the conference and at the core of the Pentagon’s work in the Indo-Pacific region, Helvey said.
Photo: Lu Yi-hsuan, Taipei Times
While President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has proposed adding US$1.4 billion to next year’s defense budget as part of its steps to bolster the nation’s self-defense, the increase is insufficient, he said.
He advised Taiwan to invest in “large numbers of small capabilities,” saying that it should acquire as many highly mobile coastal defense cruise missiles as possible, both foreign and indigenously produced.
Taiwan also needs to strengthen its reserve forces to ensure that brigades can support local and county agencies in a crisis, he added.
Helvey also called on Taiwan and the US to jointly develop and produce defense capabilities.
Taiwan’s homegrown weapons platforms can be further enhanced through US-built technologies to improve their mobility, survivability and lethality, he said.
Giving an example, he said the US could provide vehicles that could accommodate and increase the mobility of the Tien Kung III surface-to-air missiles designed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.
Highlighting Taiwan’s leading position in the global semiconductor industry, he said nearly 47 percent of US-designed chips are made by Taiwanese companies.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (台積電) plan to build a wafer plant in Arizona is a “game changer” for the US semiconductor industry and national security, Helvey said.
Bilateral cooperation would not be limited to use by the Taiwanese or US militaries, but apply to the entire supply chain, including suppliers of chips, widgets and other types of enabling technologies that are fused in defense capabilities, he said.
Helvey reiterated the US’ commitment to its “one China” policy, but added that the US would continue to provide Taiwan with defense articles and services necessary to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, as consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques between Washington and Beijing, and the “six assurances.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times on Tuesday reported that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s softened attitude toward China, after brokering a trade deal with Beijing in January, has become an obstacle for US lawmakers and officials keen to begin trade talks with Taiwan.
A bilateral trade agreement between Taiwan and the US would be crucial for Taiwan’s economic and strategic development in the long run, and signing such a deal is a priority for the government’s diplomatic efforts, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement yesterday.
The government is communicating with different US sectors, hoping to urge the US Trade Representative to reach a consensus with the White House, the US Department of State, the US Department of Commerce and other pertinent agencies to start negotiations with Taiwan, she said.
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