Taiwan Arms Freeze

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 6, 2008 | Go to article overview

Taiwan Arms Freeze


Byline: James A. Lyons Jr., SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When President Bush came to power in 2001, his administration had an announced policy to improve the defensive posture of Taiwan. However, recent statements from the administration have made it clear that the president has suspended or is freezing arms sales to Taiwan for an undetermined period. While administration officials deny such a freeze exists, other reports have suggested the freeze may become permanent.

Such a policy choice would be a tragedy not just for the people of Taiwan, but for our U.S. military forces who may have to defend Taiwan from a Communist China that shows no inclination to consider a future for Taiwan other than from its own dictat. In view of the rapidly expanding Chinese military modernization program, the current freeze makes no sense.

Taiwan, along with our friends and allies, could not be faulted for viewing the freeze as a first step in abandoning democracy for Taiwan and adding a significant degree of uncertainty to our Asian security policy. This is not a legacy President Bush should want to leave for his successor.

As Adm. Timothy Keating, current USCINCPAC (United States Pacific Command) commander, recently pointed out in an address at the Heritage Foundation, Taiwan's military equipment is getting older, leading to an expanding imbalance as the People's Republic of China (PRC) accelerates the modernization of its military forces, which include a force projection capability. There are reports that China is planning to construct an amphibious force consisting of 6 new Type O81 helicopter assault ships and 3 Type O71 landing dock assault ships. These forces are clearly not for defensive purposes.

Since his election in March, President Ma Ying-jeou and the new Kuomintang (KMT) government have moved quickly to reduce tension with mainland China. The Bush administration has worked hard to show its preference for many of the moves the KMT government is now trying to do. However, for the people of Taiwan and for the United States, the preservation of democracy on Taiwan remains paramount.

Chinese military writings over the last decade have made it patently clear that Taiwan's value to China is as a new military base. They look at Taiwan as an unsinkable aircraft carrier; controlling Taiwan will allow Chinese military forces to break out of what has been called the First Island Chain and to then dominate East Asia. Even with President Ma's conciliatory moves to reduce tension with mainland China, there has been no reciprocity by the PRC. Since the Taiwan election in March, China has shown no inclination to reduce its order of battle facing Taiwan, or even to slow the rate of growth in these forces.

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