U.S. Pushes Defense over Offense for Island Arms

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Halloran, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

HONOLULU - Senior officers of the U.S. Pacific Command have quietly urged military leaders of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to forgo purchases of some high-tech weapons with offensive capabilities in favor of those arms that would improve the island's defenses without threatening mainland China.

Officers who asked not to be named because of political sensitivities in Taipei, Beijing and Washington said they thought this approach would help keep the peace between Taiwan and China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

Beijing repeatedly has asserted that it would use military force to prevent Taipei from declaring formal independence.

Any conflict over Taiwan most likely would involve the United States, which is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on specifics in this article, saying that U.S. policy toward Taiwan has not changed.

"The [Pentagon] remains firmly committed to fulfilling the security and arms sales provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. We will continue to assist Taiwan in meeting its legitimate self-defense needs under the TRA."

The officers said the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. William J. Fallon, had encouraged Taiwan to strengthen its defenses with increased spending, a better command structure, more joint training, and defensive missiles, mines and helicopters.

After studying Taiwan's defenses, the U.S. officers said, the admiral has urged the Taiwanese forces to acquire more missiles for their fighter-interceptor jet aircraft, ground-based anti-aircraft missiles, attack helicopters and mines to defend the beaches against amphibious invaders and transport helicopters to move troops against invading paratroopers.

The officers suggested that the arms package featuring offensive weapons such as diesel-electric submarines, anti-submarine patrol planes and destroyers, which the Bush administration offered to sell Taiwan in 2001, be allowed to fade away.

It has languished in Taiwan's legislature due to adamant opposition by the majority Nationalist Party, often known by its Chinese name, the Kuomintang or KMT. …