Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taiwan Gets Arms Package Despite Chinese Opposition

Defense News


Taiwan Gets Arms Package Despite Chinese Opposition

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — A long-delayed arms package to Taiwan, frozen since December, has been released at the 11th hour as the U.S. Congress prepares to recess.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency released $6.4 billion worth of arms notifications on Oct. 3.

The package includes the upgrade of four E-2T aircraft to the Hawkeye 2000 configuration for $250 million; 30 AH-64D Block III Apache Longbow attack helicopters for $2.5 billion; 330 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles for $3.1 billion; 32 UGM-84L sub­launched Harpoon Block II missiles for $200 million; a blanket order requisition case for follow-on spare parts in support of F-5E/F, C­130H, F-16A/B and the Indigenous Defense Fighter aircraft for $334 million; and 182 Javelin guided missile anti-tank rounds for $47 million.

Missing from the notification list was a submarine design study for $360 million and 60 Sikorsky UH­60 Black Hawk utility helicopters for $600 million. In addition, the PAC-3 buy has been reduced to four batteries from the original six and there has been a reduction to 330 PAC-3 missiles from the 384 requested by Taiwan.

John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation said the reduction in PAC-3 missiles and batteries will give Taiwan fewer options against the roughly 1,300 Dong Feng short­range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan.

“So the defensive utility of the package as approved is such that only one or two of the highest-value targets in Taiwan can be defended against, while others will be indefensible against DF-11s or DF-15s,” said Tkacik.

“So the deterrent value of a ballistic missile defense system is miniscule; in other words, it does not persuade the Chinese that a missile barrage would be unsuccessful.” 

Damaged Relations?

The arms freeze received condemnation from Taiwan supporters in the U.S. Congress. Though many are pleased about the release, others are concerned that years of delays have caused “immeasurable damage to U.S.-Taiwan relations,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president, U.S.­Taiwan Business Council.

Suggestions from Washington that Taiwan has ignored its own defense needs fails to take into account the efforts of the new presidential administration of Ma Ying­jeou, sworn-in in May, who advocated the procurement of advanced weapons, including the now stalled F-16s.

“The council has always rejected the notion that the Ma administration isn’t a forceful advocate for strong security ties, including the notifications and a follow-on F-16 buy,” said Hammond-Chambers.

“The defense programs will underscore Taiwan’s credibility through Ma’s nascent attempts to engage the Chinese from a position of strength, thereby assisting him in reaching out for further reconciliation with China — which is in the U.S. interest if it promotes easing of tensions in the Strait.”

During a Sept. 29 speech at the 7th U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference at Amelia Island, Fla., Taiwan Defense Minister Chen Chao-min expressed “genuine concern” about the “unsatisfactory progress of some ongoing military programs.”

Chen said relations between Taiwan and the United States have been “hurt by some maneuvers that regrettably damaged our mutual trust before, yet ... we will eventually see the blue sky after the rain.”

Clearly, blue skies are back for Taiwan’s military, but for how long? In just a few short months, President Ma has been pushed forward on efforts to improve ties with China, including direct commercial flights across the Taiwan Strait, and talk of future confidence-building measures and a possible peace accord.

Chen denied allegations among critics in Taiwan that renewed efforts to improve relations with China are “virtually a total surrender.”

He reassured the conference that Taiwan would adhere to Ma’s “three Nos” policy to ensure security across the Strait.

These include “no reunification; no independence and no use of force,” which guarantees Taiwan would not unilaterally change the status quo without prior reconciliations.

“President Ma expects to reduce tensions and ... to increase mutual understanding by promoting cross­strait interactions,” Chen said.

He said better relations with China, the implementation of new strategic initiatives and fewer U.S. weapons will not weaken Taiwan’s military.

“They will arbitrarily assume that the demand of the defense procurements will shrink accordingly. But how can we manage the defense affairs only by our instinct and immediate assessment,” asked Chen.

“Those who believe so have failed to grasp that restructuring the military actually implies more demands, which can only be apprehended by those who own visions and insights.”

However, a former U.S. defense official said “shrinking” and “restructuring” could easily be synonymous with demilitarization, and cozier relations between China and Taiwan could make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to fulfill pledges to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression.