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US Arms Sales to Taiwan

In terms of arms sales, Section 3 of the Taiwan Relations Act clearly states that it is U.S. policy to provide Taiwan with such weapons as may be necessary for its security and an adequate defensive capability and that the quality and quantity of these weapons will be determined by the president and the Congress after consultation with U.S. military authorities. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton affirmed 16 February 2009 that U.S. policy on arms sales to Taiwan under the new administration of President Barack Obama "remains as it has been."

In 2005 the MND concluded that the currently proposed arms package was inadequate to comprehensively safeguard the country. The MND found that the military needed nine Patriot PAC-III anti-missile batteries, 12 anti-submarine surveillance aircraft and 10 diesel submarines, while the proposed package calls for six PAC-III batteries, 12 anti-submarine aircraft and eight diesel submarines. With the opposition-controlled Legislature objecting to the package's original NT$610.8 billion price tag, the military has pared the estimated total cost down to approximately NT$480 billion. Nearly NT$300 million would be financed by a special budget, while the rest would come from the Defense Ministry's annual budget.

In October 2008, President Bush notified Congress for the sale of PAC-3 systems, Apache helicopters, Harpoon missiles, and Javelin missiles, along with the upgrade of the E-2T aircraft. The procurement of these systems is ongoing.

As of late 2008, according to the MND's latest arms procurement plan, F-16C/D fighter jets were to be part of the "seven plus one" arms deal. The other items on the shopping list include anti-tank missiles, Apache helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, diesel-powered submarines, P3C anti-submarine aircraft, sea-launched Harpoon missiles, and Black Hawk helicopters. Taiwan is seeking to buy 12 P3-C anti-submarine aircraft, 8 conventional submarines, 6 PAC-III anti-missile batteries and 60-66 F-16 C/D jets from the U.S.

On 03 October 2008 the US Defense Department notified Congress that it had approved the sale of a US$6.46 billion package of weapons to Taiwan. The sales would cover some of the $12-billion package approved by President George W. Bush in 2001. That package was held up by debate in Taiwan's legislature. The Bush Administration approved the sale of a package of weapons to Taiwan that included 330 advanced capability Patriot (PAC-3) missiles worth up to $3.1 billion, and 30 Apache attack helicopters valued at $2.5 billion, along with 32 Harpoon sub-launched missiles, 182 Javelin guided missiles, and four E-2T system upgrades. The US did not, however, approve diesel-electric submarines and Black Hawk helicopters that Taiwan had sought.

Ma's administration was still seeking UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters built by United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky unit and design work on modern diesel-electric submarines. These two items were cleared for release to Taiwan by Bush as part of a landmark arms offer in April 2001, but left out of the October 2008 notification to Congress. The deals were held up for years, largely by partisan hurdles to funding in Taiwan. The Bush administration had told Taiwan that it was not denying it any of the weapons approved in 2001, but would leave the decision to Obama.

On 09 March 2009, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense announced an allocation of US$230 million to buy 60 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, following indication the US Congress would approve the deal in September or October 2009. Originally part of a US$11-billion weapons package requested by Taipei last year, the helicopters were not included in the eventual US$6.43-billion deal approved by Washington on 10 October 2008.

The Obama administration desired to avoid the risk of offending China and damaging bilateral ties. The Obama administration has permitted some arms sales to Taiwan, but it has not been proactive. In 2010, the administration released some items for sale that were previously approved by the Bush administration, including PAC-3 anti-missile interceptors, Black Hawk helicopters, and refurbished Osprey-class Coastal Mine Hunters.

On 21 September 2011, the administration approved the sale of upgrades for Taiwans existing F-16A/B fighters, but the White House did not approve other items, such as new F-16C/D fighters and submarines. With this sale, in less than two years, the Obama Administration has sold over $12 billion in arms to Taiwan. This is comparable or greater than at any other period in the history of U.S.-Taiwan unofficial relations since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act.

The Obama Administration, under the Foreign Military Sales program notified the Congress of the sale to Taiwan of a package of arms totaling $5.85 billion. And this package includes the retrofitting for 145 of Taiwans F-16 A/B fighter jets, and that includes new radars, capable weapons systems, and structural upgrades. The total cost of that aspect of the package is about $5.3 billion. There will be a five-year extension of the F-16 pilot training program at Luke Air Force Base, and that totals about $500 million. And then we will also be providing aircraft spare parts for helping to sustain Taiwans fleet of F-16s, its F-5s and C-130 cargo craft. And the total package of these spare parts is about $52 million.

The fundamental principle of US policy is that the preservation of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is very much in the strategic interests of the United States and of allies and partners, and that the very considerable progress in cross-strait ties in recent years through diplomacy and dialogue, which has been a major contributor to that stability in the region. As long as China shows no political intention to use force against Taiwan and is working proactively to strengthen peaceful interaction across the Taiwan Strait, the United States will begin to think about how it is going to sell arms to Taiwan. But Keating also emphasized that the U.S. military presence in the Western Pacific is strong enough to deal with China's military threats. In other words, the question regarding whether Taiwan has sufficient defense capabilities has gradually become a less important factor behind Washington's deterrence against China.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2013 13:29:30 ZULU