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U.S. arms sale to Taiwan a sign of stable relations: think tank

ROC Central News Agency

2017/06/30 19:12:17

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) The U.S. announcement of arms sales worth US$1.42 billion to Taiwan should ease doubts about the stability of relations between Taiwan and the United States, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), an executive board member of Taiwan Thinktank, said Friday.

The package -- covering MK-48 torpedoes, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, and standoff precision-guided missiles -- will enhance Taiwan's anti-air, anti-sea and early warning capabilities, according to Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense.

It was the first arms sale to Taiwan announced by Washington since Donald Trump took office as U.S. president on Jan. 20.

Lai, whose think tank is closely aligned with the governing Democratic Progressive Party, said the deal reflected the stable relations between Taiwan and the U.S. but should not be seen as representing an upgrade of the relationship because it was based on Taiwan's needs.

The announcement, however, "does quash a lot of speculation" over the stability of bilateral relations amid concerns of horse trading between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in the wake of the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington held earlier this month in Washington, Lai argued.

Other signs that Taiwan-U.S. relations are on track, he said, include a clause in the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act passed last December calling for senior military exchanges with Taiwan and recent approval by a U.S. House subcommittee of the Taiwan Travel Act calling for visits between the two sides at all levels.

At the very least, Lai said, Taiwan has strong support from the U.S. Congress, especially with the Republican Party as the majority party, he said.

Meanwhile, a senior researcher at the National Policy Foundation, argued that the U.S. chose to announce the arms deal at this time to create a stronger bargaining position and pressure China.

Chieh Chung (揭仲), a research fellow at the think tank, noted that the deal came shortly after the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue and Xi's ongoing visit in Hong Kong.

The move showed that Trump intends to use the move to tell China and other nations that "I'm still the boss," he said.

The United States wants to let China know that although it has improved relations with China, Washington will and is willing to pressure China on certain issues, Chieh argued.

Chieh also noted that many of the weapons systems included in the package were discussed during the previous Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration.

He said that when the U.S. agreed in September 2011 to upgrade the capacity of F-16 A/B fighters it sold to Taiwan, Taipei asked to buy four precision guided missiles -- AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missiles, AGM-154 joint standoff weapons, AGM-158 joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, and the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER cruise missile.

Now that Washington has agreed to sell Taiwan AGM88 and AGM 154 missiles, they can be installed on the upgraded F-16 A/B fighters, he said.

(By Sophia Yeh, Claudia Liu and Lilian Wu)

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