U.S. lawmakers respond warmly to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
ROC Central News Agency
Washington, Dec. 16 (CNA) Key U.S. lawmakers and business leaders expressed pleasure about the Obama administration's announcement Wednesday of a US$1.83 billion arms sales package to Taiwan, the first offered by the U.S. to the country in four years, but called for a more regular process for such transactions.
Given the U.S. commitment over the past three decades to helping Taiwan defend itself, the announcement marks a strong signal to Taiwan of its commitment to Taiwan's security and will help strengthen longstanding relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said later that day.
Royce, who pushed through legislation that passed a year ago authorizing the sale of two frigates included in Wednesday's announcement, said he was pleased the deal includes the two Perry-class frigates.
However, Royce said the administration had 'needlessly dragged out' the approval process, and that other Taiwanese requests 'have still not seen the light of day.'
'We should handle arms transfers to Taiwan just as we would for any other close security partner,' Royce said.
Royce said the sale will help increase U.S. military assistance to Taiwan's defense and contribute to peace and stability in the Asia- Pacific region.
Meanwhile, in a statement released that day, U.S. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on Washington for a 'more regularized process' for considering requests for arms sales to Taipei 'to avoid extended periods in which a fear of upsetting U.S.-China relations may harm Taiwan's defense capabilities.'
For its part, Taiwan will also need to work to meet its commitment to spend at least 3 percent of its annual gross domestic product on defense, McCain suggested.
The arms sales decision is consistent with both the legal requirements of the Taiwan Relations Act and U.S. national interest in helping the democratic government in Taipei preserve stability across the Taiwan Strait, McCain said.
'The United States must continue to support the efforts of Taiwan to integrate innovative and asymmetric measures to increase cross-strait deterrence, including the future sale of capabilities and high-end training that will help improve Taiwan's air- and sea-denial capabilities,' he said.
The U.S.- Taiwan Business Council also expressed support for the sale in a press release issued Wednesday, but raised questions about the unprecedented four-year delay of the announcement of the arms package and whether the package serves as a response commensurate to the threat posed by China's military.
The press release cited the U.S. Department of Defense as saying that China's People's Liberation Army has developed and deployed military capabilities to coerce Taiwan or attempt an invasion, if necessary.
The U.S. government's focus on increasing military exchanges and other cooperation initiatives with China, such as on climate change efforts, is impacting U.S. willingness to maintain support for Taiwan's self-defense, the council said, adding that this in turn impacts the seriousness with which China views the U.S. intentions to assist Taiwan.
Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers noted that while China has deployed new fighters, submarines, and missiles during the last four years, the U.S. has consistently refused to consider providing Taiwan access to similar platforms, or even aiding their indigenous development. The council therefore called for the return to a normal and regular process for assessing all Taiwan arms sales requests and sales.
It also suggested that the bilateral security relationship needs to be clear about what new capabilities should accompany ongoing training and exchanges in aid of Taiwan's self-defense -- including addressing quantitative issues impacting its jet fighter fleet, its requirement for submarines to complicate Chinese invasion scenarios, as well as further improvements in Taiwan's missile defense capabilities.
The administration has announced more than US$12 billion in arms sales to Taiwan since 2010, but none since US$5.9 billion in sales in September 2011 that included upgrades for Taiwan's F-16 fighter jets. That drew a diplomatic protest from Beijing, which suspended some military exchanges with the United States, although it did not seriously impair ties.
(By Tony Liao and Evelyn Kao)
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