Arms for Defense of Taiwan

By Hackett, James | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 19, 2000 | Go to article overview

Arms for Defense of Taiwan


Hackett, James, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Despite political deadlock in Washington, foreign policy and security problems continue and must be dealt with. The major flash point in the world today is the Taiwan Strait, where China may misjudge the likely U.S. reaction to its use of pressure or even military force against Taiwan. The leaders in Beijing persist in refusing to renounce the use of force.

To prepare, they are modernizing their armed forces by acquiring advanced Russian weapons. Just three months ago the Chinese press reported that Beijing intends to buy $15 billion worth of Russian arms, including hundreds of SU-27 and SU-30 fighter aircraft. Now, Beijing is following through with a deal to buy from Moscow four or five A-50 aircraft warning and control (AWACs) planes, with long-range radar that can guide up to 30 combat aircraft at a time over the Taiwan Strait.

This deal also includes two more Sovremenny-class destroyers armed with Sunburn supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles, which pose a major threat not only to Taiwan's navy but also to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. China already has taken delivery of one destroyer of this class and a second is about to be delivered. Now, two more are being added. Beijing also wants to buy Moscow's Glonass satellite navigation system, which would give its missiles global accuracy without relying on the U.S. GPS system.

A Nov. 5 report from Moscow said a high-level delegation visiting Beijing urged China to pursue "strategic joint projects" with "high-tech sectors of Russian industry." The report noted that Beijing's dynamic economy has produced foreign exchange reserves of $155 billion, much of which could be spent for military purchases. The People's Liberation Army, the report noted, is seeking to buy 120mm and 152mm self-propelled guns, infantry fighting vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, radar systems, ship-based anti-aircraft missiles, electronic warfare systems and military helicopters, and wants more licenses to produce Russian military equipment.

Considering the drumbeat of warlike talk by China, the next president should move quickly to put Beijing on notice that this country will not allow democracy on Taiwan to be snuffed out. Providing advance warning is better than trying to defend after an attack. The rulers in Beijing see time running out as Taiwan becomes increasingly independent. They could misinterpret U.S. intentions just as the Japanese militarists in 1941 misread the U.S. will to fight. A clear signal to Beijing is needed. Selling Taiwan the arms it wants would send such a signal. Congress made it easy by passing the Taiwan Reporting Requirement as part of this year's foreign operations appropriations measure.

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