In 2001, President Bush made a bold and principled decision to offer Taiwan a range of military equipment for its security. In 2008, as he prepares to leave office, the president seems to have reneged on that commitment.
On Wednesday, Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed that the administration has frozen arms sales to the island nation, acknowledging Beijing’s displeasure by way of explanation. “The Chinese have made clear to me their concern over any arms sales to Taiwan,” he said at a Heritage Foundation forum in Washington. However, the decision to freeze arms sales is mistaken and dangerous.
The People’s Republic of China has been expanding its military capabilities at a rapid pace. Included in this impressive buildup are weapons directly intended for use against Taiwan: hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles, scores of new fighter bombers and several types of attack submarines. In accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the Bush administration originally proposed an arms package designed to improve Taiwan’s capacity for self-defense. Included were Patriot 3 missile-defense systems, P3C antisubmarine warfare aircraft, Apache helicopters, Kidd-class destroyers, diesel submarines and a modern command, control and communications system.
Read also A Freeze on Taiwan Arms by John Tkacik.