U.S. Weighs Selling Sea-Based Defenses to Taiwan; Move Aimed at Countering China's Cross-Strait Military Buildup

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Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

China's military buildup opposite Taiwan is destabilizing the region, and in response, the United States is considering selling sea-based missile defenses to the island nation, Pentagon and State Department officials say.

Richard Lawless, deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia, said during a Friday hearing that Taiwan is threatened by China's military buildup and lacks defenses.

"Our defense relationship with Taiwan seeks to reverse negative trends in this ability to defend itself, possibly obviating the need for massive U.S. intervention in a crisis scenario," Mr. Lawless told the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional panel.

"If deterrence fails, Taiwan is supported by the U.S. and its allies," he said. "We must be prepared to swiftly defeat [China's] use of force."

Commission Chairman Roger Robinson said China has some 500 missiles targeted at Taiwan and is adding up to 75 a year.

Mr. Robinson asked whether the missile threat will lead to the sale to Taiwan of U.S. Aegis battle-management ships armed with sea-based missile defenses.

"We're, of course, well aware of this issue," Mr. Lawless said. "It's been on the table for some time. I think that in due course, it will be addressed by the administration."

Mr. Lawless, however, said the Pentagon is working with Taiwan officials to help them buy weapons approved for sale in the past.

The Pentagon is privately urging Taiwan to buy advanced Patriot PAC-3 antimissile systems, defense officials say. Sea-based missile defenses are under development.

Taiwan is considering purchasing Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers, submarines and antisubmarine aircraft.

Randy Shriver, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said at the hearing that China's military buildup is a concern to the United States.

Mr. Shriver disclosed that during the visit in December of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, President Bush told the Chinese leader that a crisis in the Taiwan Strait would "very likely" involve U. …