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Panel: Anticipated U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan Will Strain Relations With Beijing

Taiwanese troops following an undated exercise.

Taiwanese troops following an undated exercise.

The Taiwanese presidential elections next month — with a change in party control expected and the likely announcement of a new billion-dollar U.S. arms sale to Taipei — will not only “send a signal to Beijing” but likely will, in the short run, increase tensions between Washington and the People’s Republic of China, a panel of experts on the region said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Ian Easton, a research fellow at Project 2049, said the reported U.S. sales under the Taiwan Relations Act likely will include up to four Perry-class frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, Boeing Apache helicopters and a variety of missiles for Taiwan’s army. No formal package has yet been sent to Congress, so the exact dollar amount requested and numbers and types of equipment are not publicly known.

Arms sales, which have been on hold for more than four years, are “the most visible” interaction between the United States and Taiwan, a nation that otherwise is “almost completely marginalized” internationally.

“I can assure you China will yell and scream no matter what is in [President Barack] Obama’s package,” Robert Manning of the Atlantic Council added. He expects Taiwan to be looking for improved anti-submarine warfare capability even as it looks to build up its own submarine fleet.

The arms sales “do complicate [Chinese] war planning . . . they have to plan accordingly” to the changed equation in equipment and training, Easton added. “[China’s People’s Liberation Army] has no experience” with a blockade and possible invasion on this scale when looking at Taiwan across the straits from mainland China.

Joanne Yu Taylor of RAND said Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, which is expected to win the election, will be looking at making “a great push for indigenous defense” capability, especially in cyber, aerospace and maritime. The party signaled such moves in the 12 Blue Papers it has recently produced on Taiwanese defense.

But the reality for Taiwan, even with a change in governmental control, won’t be much different than it is now. “Its Number One security threat is China, [and its] Number One defender, the U.S.,” said Taylor.

While the waters between the mainland and Taiwan appear calm, there “is unprecedented tension in the region,” Manning said, as China tries to expand its control by building up coral reefs and claiming them as islands in the South China Sea and disputing Japanese claims over islands in the East China Sea.

As a result, more nations are looking to the United States for security leadership, Manning said. “We can thank China for all that,” particularly the regional interest in building up anti-access networks of their own. In addition, the nations are also interested in expanding their maritime domain awareness capabilities, particularly in the South China Sea. “If done properly, it can provide a common operating picture” for U.S. allies and partners.

Manning added that the region is seeing “unprecedented military spending,” which for the first time has exceeded Europe’s.

What is also drawing the region closer together militarily is interest in submarines to counter the Chinese. “No one wants to be without one,” Manning said.

The Taiwanese have said they will spend 3 percent of their gross domestic product in the near future on defense, including $4 billion to build eight diesel-powered submarines.

But “access to the technology [from blueprints to hulls for these submarines] ” is still problematic,” he said because of historic Chinese pressure on Dutch and German governments to stay away from Taiwan, which China regards as a province. The United States does not manufacture diesel submarines.

Even with that pressure, Taiwan could still look to the United States and Japan for assistance in that area. Japan and Australia are working together on submarine development, he said.

Easton said he did not expect sales of F-16s to be included in the new agreement nor moves to modernize Taiwan’s reserve forces. He did recommend Washington and Taipei resume yearly defense talks to review security needs that would include short take off and landing aircraft.

Although on the surface cross-strait tensions appear calm, Taiwan’s “defense environment is very severe,” he said.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    The Taiwan is the most critical ally of our modern times.. and it will exponentially increase in its value as the most critical ally in the Far East. China is now winning by attrition intimidation and blackmail.. its appetite is exponentially growing with its economical stature. England did one of the most treacherous and idiotic moves by giving the Hong Kong and its people to the China. Thacher is the last person to do such a thing but being alone with failed “alliance” (check the story with the Falkland as well.. vis a vis US “alliance” to the G.B. so much so with the STILL ONGOING realignment policy with US/China relationship is sure betrayal of US and its allies by the the ongoing AGENDA of the “OPEN DOOR” policy toward the China against the ALL OUR local FRIENDS in the region. First of all Rosenbergs got FRIED ON THE ELECTRIC CHAIR (only spies that actually did get fried for the A-bomb “issues”.. While “PARTICULAR INTERESTS” Delivered Hong Kong and the functional CAPITALISM for free so to enable China to become from the backward “developing country” into an unmatched super power. The HONG KONG’S capitalist know-how is making a miracle in China thus enabling China not a ONE A-bomb, but thousand of H-bombs who is to “fry” for that “experiment”? Taiwan is under embargo while EVERY domestically stimulated MONOPOLY is BUILDING CHINA AGAINST THE US EXISTENTIAL INTERESTS? US spent 17 trillion Dollars on those companies “too big to fail” actually robing from mama’s and papa’s business to build China and its H-bombs and also the “know-how” how to build the “rope for Capitalists to hang themselves with it..” Actually no Capitalists would ever betray its business, nor his country but the “Companies” that are too big to fail DO NOT NEED REASON NOR THE COMMON SENSE they only need those lawyers – well rented mouth-pieces to keep “COMPENSATING” for their ARROGANCE and the UTTER CONTEMPT on the American people and the common sense, So the CHINA is a perfect “partner” for their PARTICULAR interests against the GENERAL INTERESTS of the American people and the actually only PROOVEN ally for the last 60 years is shun, embargoed, prohibited to COMPETE and divested from its ability to DEFEND its DEMOCRACY and its sovereignty.. After the Taiwan loss there would be ABSSOLUTELLY NOTHING TO STOP CHINA’S expansion and the attrition. NOTHING!!! Arrogance and Ignorance is luxury of the “substituted” crocked FASCISM (of course by definition monopoly is a fascism and it stands in direct opposite to the Capitalism which is non-monopolized free exchange of goods and services) the lawyers – “politicians” are just rented mouthpieces where “ignorance” and arrogance are virtues but not in the MILITARY. Once upon a time there was a Naval Intelligence Officer who contradicted Obama’s “political “narrative” and got fired.. Clapper did not share that guys fate just because Clapper is comfortable to LIE with a bold face without any consideration to ANY consequences so reality-check to challenge the general NONSENSE which is border-line treason by the companies that are to big to fail? and/or “just” a bureaucratic politically “motivated” AGENDA – of “just” well motivated – rented MOUTH PIECES of political Democratic, “Republican” “establishment” (good cop bad cop.. play on the American people,) In overall just guess who is to be winning.. ? Taiwan? Not the chance.. China is groomed to become the next “existential threat”. For which I really believe to be our truly existential threat in the forthcoming World War.

  • Secundius

    I find it interesting that NOBODY want to STRAIN Relations with Beijing, But have NO problems with Beijing STRAINING Relations with US (the USA)…

    • Curtis Conway

      … and ALL their neighbors!

  • Curtis Conway

    ” . . the nations are also interested in expanding their maritime domain awareness capabilities, particularly in the South China Sea. “If done properly, it can provide a common operating picture” . .”

    International Maritime Operations Center (IMOC)? If the Chinese were serious in their protestations about wanting to patrol the areas and enforce good order, they would want to participate, instead of keeping everyone else at bay.

  • TransformerSWO

    Good. People have been making the same objections since Reagan’s time, and probably before. If Beijing were interested in better relations with the US, they know what to do.

  • cjakobsson

    It is a matter of supporting an elected government that is under threat from a neighboring fascist government. The Beijing regime has been acting aggressively toward their neighbors for a long time. It is appropriate that we should be providing ships and weapons to Taiwan and treating Taiwan like an ally. We should also be paying close attention to the combat readiness of our own Navy.

  • Jerome Besson

    Arms sales to Taiwan? As a Arthur Waldron unencumbered by the thought process is reported having suggested, why not Japan-made submarines too?

    NEVER. . . It won’t happen. Unless the Chinese element is thoroughly expunged from a Japanese speaking Taiwan.

    By then, Japan would have been saddled with the defense and security of its inalienable Crown Territory, Taiwan. Why are not we there yet? I wonder.

    Meanwhile, you can forget about arms sales to an unreliable CT (Chinese Taihoku),

    • Secundius

      @ Jerome Besson.

      The Taiwanese already have a Complete set of SSK (Gotland class) Plans, Courtesy of us (the USA) in 2007 or 2008. By the George W. Bush, Administration and a Unspecified 2nd Party within that Administration…

  • sferrin

    IMO whether it “strains” relations with China or not shouldn’t even enter the equation. We either support our ally or stop pretending we are one.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    I am just curious why outlined few facts regarding the Taiwan IRRESPECTIVE of the prevailing State Department’s politically “DRIVEN” narrative SOURCE USED IS THE HARVARD MAGAZINE from 1980’s.. So if the FACT is:
    Taiwan is not aggressor state.
    Taiwan is not police state
    Taiwan is not a communist state
    Taiwan is not a fascist state
    Taiwan economy is one of the purest form of the capitalism a lot of small business and it had almost full employment UNTIL the EMBARGO was placed on Taiwan by the dirtiest act of appeasement since 1930’s
    Taiwan is a Democracy
    Taiwan was an unquestionable ALLY for the last 60 years.
    Taiwan was not economical basket case its average pay in the 1980’s was 22$/hr US union workers at that time had 23.75$/hr social net better than Canadian or US. It had to sell gold for loss just to stabilize the currency (it had excellent economic growth)
    Taiwan is not a basket case that need “charity” it is a valuable ally that is able to CONTRIBUTE not in misery but in common VALUES and common interest in PEACE AND PROSPERITY.
    Taiwanese interests and interests of American PEOPLE are exactly the same but particular interests of few corporations that are doing “killing” in taxes and cheap labor.. Yes I am for FREE trade BUT foremost for the FAIR TRADE.. China is selling to us a proverbial “rope” by which we ARE hanging ourselves with..

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  • John B. Morgen

    Selling arms to Taiwan is [NOT] going to cause much damage to American-Sino relations which has already been done over the South China Sea matter. China has to accept the fact that Taiwan is an independent nation-state—the Chinese civil war is over….