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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US plans advanced weapons sales to Taiwan

China Times Published: Oct. 4, 1999

The United States will soon make new sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, including six new Patriot 3 anti-missile batteries, White House officials and members of Congress have revealed.

The Washington Post reported yesterday the Clinton administration's plan to sell Taiwan weapons previously disallowed, in order to block the possible passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, or dilute the bill if it is passed.

Taiwan currently uses upgraded Patriot 2 missiles, part of the Modified Air Defense System (MADS), which are not as precise as the Patriot 3. The new Patriots will be sold later this year.

According to U.S. officials, Washington and Taipei are also discussing the possible sale of submarine-hunting P-3 Orion aircraft and advanced Aegis battle-management radar for battleships.

The P-3 Orion aircraft have been an acquisition goal of Taiwan's for many years, weapons that Japan and South Korea have long possessed. The Aegis battle-management radar system performs theater-level missile defense functions, one feature of the proposed Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system.

If the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act is passed into law, the executive branch would be required to report all of Taiwan's arms requests to Congress. Taiwan could expect to be able to purchase arms long denied it by the U.S. due to political considerations.

The Clinton Administration has openly opposed the act from the outset, believing it will create a new irritant in relations between Washington and Beijing. Nevertheless, the bill has received strong support from powerful members of Congress, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, House Committee on International Relations Chairman Benjamin Gilman and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Therefore, believing the bill stands a very good chance of passing both houses of Congress, the White House has taken the unusual step of revealing increased weapons sales to Taiwan, in order prove the act is unnecessary.

Due to concern that the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act will hamper negotiations for mainland China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), a number of American big-business lobby groups have joined in the campaign to block it.

One administration official who requested anonymity said that if the Congress passed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, "it moves us very close, if not all the way there, to a formal military alliance with Taiwan," which would vastly complicate relations with Beijing.

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