Taiwan Preps for U.S. Defense Conference
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI - Taiwan's defense community is preparing for the 7th United States–Taiwan Defense Industry Conference to be held Sept. 28-30 in Florida.
Held by the Washington-based U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, the conference is unique in that U.S. government and Taiwan military officials congregate at a nongovernment-sponsored event within the U.S. The U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a state and China has been successful in the past at limiting Taiwan's access to U.S. government officials.
Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers said, "This event comes at an important time in the defense relationship. President Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) government has only been in power for a few months, and the substance and tone of his security priorities are just emerging. In addition, we are still waiting for the Bush administration to submit the outstanding arms sales notifications awaiting congressional review, an issue that raises serious implications for future U.S. commitments to Taiwan."
The U.S. has frozen an $11 billion arms package for Taiwan that includes submarines, attack and utility helicopters, air defense missiles and anti-ship missiles. Washington has until the congressional recess Sept. 26 to release the notifications. If not, the notifications will be held until the next U.S. presidential administration. The delay could signal an end to future U.S. arms to Taiwan, depending on the new administration's China/Taiwan policy.
"The Defense Industry Conference is the most important private event reviewing U.S.-Taiwan defense and security issues each year," Hammond-Chambers said. "Senior representatives from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State will give keynote speeches at the event."
So far, the conference has not identified officials from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense attending the conference. There are unconfirmed reports that Chen Chao-min, Taiwan's minister of national defense, will attend and give a speech.
"In addition, a high-caliber group of leading U.S. and Taiwan experts will address many important topics and will engage our attendees in an informative dialogue on shared issues and concerns," Hammond-Chambers said.
Confirmed U.S. speakers include Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. deputy secretary of defense, now chairman, U.S.-Taiwan Business Council; Randy Schriver, Armitage International; Mark Hall, director, Information Assurance Policy & Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense; Capt. John Figuerres, chief, Northeast Asia Policy Division, Strategic Planning & Policy Directorate, U.S. Pacific Command; and John Anderson, chief, Technical Section, American Institute in Taiwan (the de facto U.S. Embassy).
Nongovernmental Taiwan speakers will include Fu S. Mei, director, Taiwan Security Analysis Center; Alexander Huang, professor of strategic studies and director of American studies at Tamkang University; Lin Chen-wei, director, Department of International Affairs, of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party; and Michael Tsai, former minister of national defense, now honorary deputy chairman, Institute for Taiwan Defense and Strategic Studies.
Session topics this year include long-range planning for Taiwan's future military needs, military modernization and the drive toward an all-professional force, and indigenous production and industrial cooperation.
Breakout session topics include the implications of the weaponization of space and China's space program, as well as Taiwan's current and future space programs; network and information security challenges and cyber-war preparedness from both a U.S. and a Taiwan perspective; and the implications the U.S. presidential election could have for Taiwan.