Home » Budget Industry » Senators McCain, Cardin Question Lack of U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan in Letter to Obama


Senators McCain, Cardin Question Lack of U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan in Letter to Obama

Undated Photo of Taiwanese troops using U.S. equipment.

Undated Photo of Taiwanese troops using U.S. equipment.

The lack of a pending arms package sale to Taiwan has raised concerns with two U.S. senators on America’s commitment to Taiwanese security, according to a Nov. 19 letter to the White House.

In the letter — obtained by USNI News — Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) expressed concerns that the U.S. has not done enough to adequately arm Taiwan while China is in the midst of a rapid military expansion.

“While recent relations between Taiwan and China have been more encouraging, we remain concerned that China’s ongoing military modernization, and the threat it poses to peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, is not being adequately addressed,” read the letter
“We are troubled that it has now been over four years — the longest period since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979 — since the administration has notified Congress of a new arms sale package.”

In particular, Cardin and McCain pointed out the Taiwanese requirements for a new fighter and submarines in their letter as needs but dwelled less on specific systems and more on larger U.S. security assistance goals with Taiwan.

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) AP Photo via The New York Times

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) AP Photo via The New York Times

The pair also expressed concern that Taiwan itself was not spending enough to meet its own goals.

“We believe that it is equally important that Taiwan strive to meet President Ma Ying-jeou’s 2008 commitment to invest at least 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense,” read the letter.
“We are increasingly concerned that, absent a change in defense spending. Taiwan’s military will continue to be under-resourced and unable to make the investments necessary to maintain a credible deterrent across the strait, especially as its limited defense resources are increasingly constrained by growing military personnel costs.”

Arms sales to Taiwan are politically sensitive in the world’s relationship to China with Beijing vigorously denouncing any other country’s attempt to arm what the China sees as a rouge province with no claims to independence.

“China firmly opposes foreign arms sale to Taiwan and any form of military technology exchanges and cooperation between Taiwan and foreign countries. This position is clear-cut and consistent,” a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said shortly after news of Taiwan securing foreign help for a new class of minesweepers.
“We ask relevant countries to respect China’s core interests, adhere to the one-China principle, neither sell arms to Taiwan in any form nor assist Taiwan in developing its military equipment, and take concrete actions to support the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and peaceful reunification of China.”

The U.S. is one of the few nations that is willing to sell arms to China but even so U.S. has moved cautiously in the last decade.

The last time the Obama administration notified Congress of a foreign military sale (FMS) to Taiwan was in Sept. 21, 2011 for a $5.9 billion package that included upgrades for Taiwan’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 Falcon fighters — four years ago.

It was the first after a 2010, $6 billion arms sale package to Taiwan caused China to break off military to military relations with the U.S.

The George W. Bush administration also drew criticism for arms sales to Taiwan, according to a 2014 Congressional Research Service report.

Naval analyst author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World Eric Wertheim told USNI News last week that the letter from McCain and Cardin reflected an ongoing criticism of administrations and their positions on Chinese arms sales.

Guided missile corvette Tuo Jiang on December 2014. via wikipedia

Guided missile corvette Tuo Jiang on December 2014. via wikipedia

“This whole issue to be easy to discuss when you’re in [charge] but once you’re in the driver’s seat its really tough to move because of opposition from China,” he said.

Chief among Taiwan’s military needs is a new stable of submarines to replace its badly aging fleet of diesel-electric attack boats (SSKs) — two Dutch-built, 1980s vintage 2,600-ton Hai-lang-class SSKs and two World War II era U.S. Guppy-class boats used for training.

The Bush administration promised Taiwan eight SSKs but for a variety of reasons never made good on the promise of the new boats.

Earlier this year the Taiwan Ministry of Defense announced it would embark on its own submarine program but it faces a challenge, Wertheim said.

“I think in the long term they’re going to do it but it’s not going to be an easy design process,” he said.

Taiwan is in the midst of a naval refresh. In addition to the submarine enterprise, Taiwan is on a list to get some of the recently retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, building a new class of missile corvettes and minesweepers.

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  • NavySubNuke

    On the SSK front what Taiwan really needs is Germany to man up and sell them some SSKs. Too bad the Germans lack the moral courage to make such a move.

    • Steve

      Agreed. Germany is not going to rock its economic boat with China to help Taiwan (or anyone else for that matter). Germany sold out on the Iran Nuclear deal but of course had plenty of company. Moral courage may not even be in the German language at this point.

      As for the US, I don’t think that the Obama Administration has even heard of moral courage. Taiwan will not be seeing any Sales agreement from the US anytime soon. Truly amazing when you consider China’s aggressive and destabilizing campaign in the South China Sea against anyone and everyone in the area or with interests in the area.

      • PolicyWonk

        Moral coverage? Surely you jest! Lets look at what you call “moral courage”, shall we?

        The previous administration (and its GOP supporters in the HoR’s) obviously demonstrated clear “moral courage” after the ChiComs rammed one of our intelligence gathering aircraft out of the sky by permitting the transfer of 10’s of thousands of dual-use technologies to the Communist Chinese.

        Along with the unprecedented transfer of these technologies, went the manufacturing equipment, the hard-won manufacturing technologies, many millions of American jobs, a large portion of the Strategic Manufacturing Base, in addition to the tax base (representing a further drain to the US economy).

        The US National Intelligence Estimate declared that: the Communists were given more technology in 6 years than the USSR got in 60 years of Cold War that far outstripped transfers by all the proceeding administrations *combined*; an unprecedented national security disaster – not only for the USA, but for every nation in the region as well; the Chinese would use the technologies to immediately bolster their military build-up and likely radically increase China’s diplomatic belligerence.

        Sound familiar?

        And as Patrick Buchanan put it in his many editorial on the topic, this was solely in return for short-term profits for GOP party donors. As if that wasn’t bad enough – the millions of American workers the GOP disenfranchised are now the same people that have since been added to the welfare and food stamp rolls – that the GOP now wants to take away, because they’re all lazy and/or useless.

        Obama, while hardly being an ideal POTUS, hasn’t done anywhere near the damage the GOP did to this nation simply in this self-inflicted national security disaster – and doesn’t count the massive defeat we suffered to Al Qaida in the GWOT, the severe consequences of the invasion of Iraq, or the lasting damage to the US economy.

        In short – the GOP and the former administration didn’t hesitate sell out US national security, or Taiwans, or any other nations national security.

        So much for “moral courage”.

        Cheers.

        • NavySubNuke

          Do you just keep that same post in a word document somewhere so you can pull it out every time someone dares to say anything bad about Obama? I feel like I have seen you repost that about 10+ times.
          You should realize that someone complaining about Obama and you attempting to show that he is better than Bush 43 isn’t actually saying that Obama is actually a good or even a mediocre or poor President — it is just saying he is better than Bush 43. Which isn’t a given for one thing (sorry but I don’t find a Pat Buchanan editorial very convincing as “evidence”) and isn’t exactly the best standard either.

          • PolicyWonk

            People stop posting garbage, and I’ll stop posting FACTS.

          • Ctrot

            You really don’t want to talk about technology transfers to China if you don’t mention Bill Clinton.

          • NavySubNuke

            Its interesting that you consider Pat Buchanan editorials to be facts but hey who am I to judge.

    • Secundius

      @ NavySubNuke.

      What For? Bush/Cheney, supplied Swedish Gotland class Submarine Plan back in 2007…

    • sferrin

      Japan might though. Food for thought.

  • vincedc

    Maybe I’m getting more skeptical in my old age, but does anyone else see a lobbyist or two behind this letter?

  • PolicyWonk

    “In particular, Cardin and McCain pointed out the Taiwanese requirements for a new fighter and submarines…”
    ==========================================
    The USA should start building AIP boats, under license from either the Germans or Japanese (amongst with other potential partners), etc. This would resolve a number of problems:
    – The USN has coverage problems with the constant demands on the shrinking SSN fleet, and at $3B/each the Virginia’s, while excellent boats, cannot be built in numbers required. Hence – the USA should be building AIP boats and forward basing them in the Med, ME, and S. China sea. And ALL of the AIP boats should include the VPM feature of the new Virginias, to increase their punch.
    – An AIP boat can be built/purchased for a fraction of what a Virginia costs – we could easily get FOUR AIP boats for the price of ONE Virginia.
    – The USA would then be in a position to sell AIP boats to Taiwan, while bolstering our coverage, and lightening the load on our already overworked SSN’s.

    • Secundius

      @ PolicyWonk.

      3.6 Gotland’s for 1 Virginia…

      • sferrin

        Training and paying 3 crews instead of one. Maintaining and fueling three boats instead of one. And you still don’t have near the versatility of a Virginia.

        • Secundius

          @ sferrin.

          “Flip-Side” of that Coin, Being in Three Places instead of just ONE…

          • sferrin

            But takes 5 times as long to get into position. . .

          • NavySubNuke

            5 times is pretty generous when you consider the range limitations on the Gotland. We’d need to set up refueling points all over the place for them or keep them constantly forward deployed and flyaway support teams to maintain them ($$$!)

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            Either that, or Dual AIP’s in each Boat…

          • NavySubNuke

            AIP systems – at least the ones which are publically known – aren’t useful for what I would consider “strategic” distances – i.e. transiting from an existing submarine homeport to CENTCOM or PACOM — as yet they are only useful for “tactical” distances.
            Also I believe AIPs – again based on what I have seen publically – are also limited to low speeds – <10kts – if you want to have any kind of endurance beyond an hour or two. So even with 2 systems – which would significantly add to the cost, size, and complexity of the boat – you wouldn't really add all that much range.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            Diesel can get you there and back. And AIP’s can keep you Submerged “Out Sight” for up to 6-weeks. How’s that ANY different, then that of a “Nuke Boat”…

          • NavySubNuke

            They are totally different – especially when it comes to distance travel.
            Diesel can’t really get you there and back without refueling and it takes you weeks to get there instead of days. Also, I’d love to see what AIP system you are talking about that can keep you submerged for 6 weeks to begin with. Never mind one that could keep you submerged and actually let you get anywhere – i.e. speed >4 knots.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            But then again, if you have 3.6 to 1 ratio in SSK’s vs. SSN’s. TEN “SSN’s” will get you THIRTY-SIX “SSK’s” on a Constant Rotation of Deployment (aka Aldrin Cycler), That will make-up for the “Short-Fall” in the “Time-Lag” discrepancies…

          • NavySubNuke

            I’m still not buying it – because we both know you wouldn’t get 36 SSKs in place of 10 SSNs — you’d be lucky to get 20 at best.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            Let’s put it another way, General Electric Nuclear Submarine Shipbuilding Division. ISN’T GOING TO BE SELLING ANY “CHEAP” Nuclear-Powered Submarines, ANY TIME SOON or IN YOUR “REMAINING LIFETIME”…

          • NavySubNuke

            Electric Boat – owned by General Dynamics by the way – and Newport News are actually building Virginia class SSNs for what I would consider cheap right now thanks to multiyear procurement contracts. Sure they cost more than an SSK – but they also deliver a lot more capability than an SSK does.
            We’ll see what happens with the OHIO Replacement – but so far the submarine shipbuilders have been doing a great job.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            “WHAT EVER”…

          • sferrin

            On top of that we both know it would NEVER be 3 Gotlands for a Virgina. It would be ONE Godland for 1 Virgina. That’s also why the “light carrier” that people continually bring up is a bad idea. They’d never get 5 Americas for 1 Ford. They’d get 1 America for 1 Ford. That’s how politicians work. A sub is a sub and a carrier is a carrier.

          • NavySubNuke

            True – although I would at least hold out hope that it would be 1.5 for 1. Hopefully the cost of the other 1.5 is enough graft to satisfy the necessary number of politicians.

    • sferrin

      “The USA should start building AIP boats”

      No. No, they shouldn’t.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Seriously, does this latest news come as any surprise for an Obama Administration with a defacto “PARE” foreign policy (Punish our Allies / Reward our Enemies)?

    We should at least sell the Formosans some ocean-going dredges, so they can start building their own chain of barrier islands in the SCS…

  • Secundius

    NO COUNTRY ON EARTH, will make a Submarine Sale with Taiwan. Because they DON’T WANT TO “PISS-OFF” THE PRC…

  • Secundius

    I find it interesting that Senator John McCain has been at the Capitol, since 1987. And STILL doesn’t KNOW that the US. House of Representative’s are in charge of Funding and Procurement and that the Senate control’s Export’s and International Affairs…

  • sferrin

    I don’t know if Taiwan has issue with Japan as a nation but the equipment they produce ain’t too shabby.

    • NavySubNuke

      Agreed – equipment isn’t the issue —- politics is.

  • John B. Morgen

    The United States could build German designed SSKs under license and then sale them to Taiwan…..

  • vetww2

    Forget it. Taiwan is the next Hong Kong. Good Bye.

  • Secundius

    According to NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative).org. Neither, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Spain, South Korea and India. HAVE ANY INTENTIONS of Ever “Directly” Selling Submarines and/or Plans to the Taiwanese Government…

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