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Anticipated U.S. arms sales to Taiwan send signal to Beijing

ROC Central News Agency

2015/12/10 13:34:33

Washington, Dec. 9 (CNA) Amid reports that Washington is about to announce new arms sales to Taiwan for the first time in more than four years, a panel of scholars on Asian affairs said Wednesday that the move would be of great significance and would serve as a signal to Beijing.

Speaking at a seminar titled 'The Future of Taiwan's Defense Role' held by the Atlantic Council, Robert Manning, resident senior fellow of the think tank in Washington, said defense spending in Asia exceeded that of Europe's for the first time last year. What is also drawing the region closer together militarily is interest in submarines to counter the Chinese, he added.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, regional tensions have all been related to China's efforts to expand its control in the region, including building on coral reefs and claiming them as islands in the South China Sea, as well as disputing Japanese claims over islands in the East China Sea, Manning said. Given Taiwan's regional geographic importance, more attention should be paid to its self-defense capabilities, he suggested.

Manning mentioned ROC President Ma Ying-jeou's East and South China Sea Peace Initiatives and Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement as examples of solutions to help ease regional tensions. Taiwan has a lot of capabilities that could contribute to regional stability, he said.

Therefore, in addition to Taiwan's own efforts to upgrade its self-defense capabilities, he recommends the United States also help bolster Taiwan's defense.

Manning expects Taiwan to be looking for improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities even as it looks to build up its own submarine fleet.

Ian Easton, a research fellow at Project 2049, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank, said the reported U.S. sales will include up to four Perry-class frigates, amphibious assault vehicles, Boeing Apache helicopters and a variety of missiles for Taiwan's army.

Unlike Washington's allies and strategic partners in the region, Taiwan faces significant challenges on the security front, particularly the military threat from China, Easton said, adding that under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. is legally obligated to sell weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan.

The likely announcement of a U.S. arms sale to Taipei could be deemed as a signal Washington wishes to send to Beijing that China's military threat to Taiwan is illegitimate and unacceptable, according to Easton.

(By Rita Cheng and Evelyn Kao)

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