Defense analysts: newest arms sales reflect U.S. trust in Taiwan
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Dec. 17 (CNA) Taiwanese defense analysts said Thursday that the new package of U.S. arms sales reflect that the U.S. administration trusts Taiwan, because the highly sensitive Stinger shoulder-fired missiles, once under strict export restrictions, were included.
The Ministry of National Defense announced the previous day that the U.S. government has notified Congress of a proposed package of arms for Taiwan. Among the 10 items in the US$1.83 billion package are two Perry-class frigates, AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, and the Stinger missiles.
Erich Shih (施孝瑋), a senior editor with Defense International magazine, said it is noteworthy that the U.S. is prepared to sell Taiwan the Stinger shoulder-fired missile, which is light to carry and easy to operate compared with Stinger missiles launched from any type of military platform.
The U.S. has strict export restrictions on this type of missile, for fear that they might fall into the hands of terrorists, he added.
Suggesting that the U.S. would like to help Taiwan with its defense capability, Shih said the Stingers could elevate the air defense ability of tank landing vessels as well as missile boats.
Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) echoed Shih's opinion, saying that by selling the missiles to Taiwan, the U.S. administration apparently has trust in Taiwan.
He pointed out that the AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles are good for the defense of the Taiwan Strait, while the SQR-19 sonar suite on the Perry-class frigates can improve the Navy's anti-submarine capability.
However, the convener of the legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee considers the Obama administration to be more conservative than its predecessor, judging from the decision not to sell Aegis combat system vessels, F-16C/D or F-35 fighters, all of which Taiwan wants.
Prof. Edward I-hsin Chen (陳一新) of the Graduate Institute of American Studies of Tamkang University, said that the U.S. has demonstrated its confidence in President Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) cross-Taiwan Strait policy.
He pointed out this will be the fourth arms package sold to Taiwan by the U.S. during Ma's two terms as president. It would be hard to guess whether the U.S. would do the same if Taiwan was administered by a political party other than the KMT, he said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that the proposed fourth arms sales package included, the value of U.S. military sales to Taiwan since Ma took office in May 2008 amounts to more than US$20 billion.
Emphasizing the reduced tension in cross-strait relations, Chen said he believes the new sale will be protested by Beijing, but only to a small degree.
He suggested that the cross-strait policy of the new government after Taiwan's Jan. 16 presidential election could determine the attitude of China.
In addition, Chen pointed out, not selling Taiwan F16C/D fighters at a time of the South China Sea dispute could be seen as a U.S. message that it has no intention of heightening military competition in the region.
(By Y.C. Tai, P.C. Tang and Lillian Lin)
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