Thursday, February 11, 2010

Obama administration approves arms package to Taiwan

On January 29, the Pentagon formally notified Congress of the proposed arms package to Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou welcomed the decision saying it would bolster Taipei’s confidence in dealing with Beijing, reported the United Daily News. The deal did not cover sales of advanced F-16C/D fighter jets or the diesel-engined submarines which Taiwan had requested. However, these exclusions did not mean the purchases would not go ahead said Premier Wu Den-yih. The two sides are still discussing the weapons systems and negotiating the price, according to the Taiwan News.

Following Washington’s decision, Beijing lodged a strong protest, threatening to halt military exchanges with the US, review major cooperation issues and impose sanctions on companies involved in this transaction. Philip J. Crowley, U.S. State Department spokesman, described Beijing’s response as “predictable” and said the Chinese government has long opposed U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. “We did not consult with China before taking this action,” he said.

The proposed US$6.4 billion arms package includes two mine-hunting ships, 60 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 12 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 114 Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems and 60 ship-based communications systems. According to Wang Yu-chi, the Presidential Office spokesman, the U.S. announcement came as no surprise to Ma as he had already been notified some time before by the related ministries.

Upon hearing the news, the Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said that Taiwan's success in getting the arms purchase was the result of hard work by the previous DPP administration. She urged the government to pursue a deal on the purchase of the submarines and F-16s.

Tsai also called on the government to establish an efficient coastal defense system in light of reports that a Chinese submarine had crossed into southern Taiwanese territorial waters on January 27. The government should not create the false impression that a war between Taiwan and China is impossible, because that would threaten national security by giving the military the wrong impression, Tsai said.

The announcement of US arms sales to Taiwan was greeted with applause from legislators from the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan. The Taipei-based China Times said this proves that the majority of Taiwanese people are united on the issue of national security. Given the constant bickering between the two parties on most other issues, the consensus on the purchase of US arms makes for a refreshing change.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.