Thursday, October 17, 2013

Warning Shot: Why the time May be Right for another U.S. Arms Sale Package to Taiwan

During last week's APEC Summit in Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated to the Taiwanese envoy that Beijing and Taipei must begin taking steps to close the political divide between them.  While such statements could have been taken in an attempt to garner and maintain support from the leadership of the People's Liberation Army, it is equally as likely that the absence of American President Barack Obama emboldened Xi to take an increasingly assertive tone towards Taipei.  If the Obama Administration is serious about  security commitments to its Asian allies,  the time may be optimal for it to fire a "diplomatic  warning shot" across the bow of the PRC in the form publicly declaring its willingness to be open to new military platform requests from its longtime ally Taiwan.

Sorry President Ma, you're not winning the Nobel Peace Prize 

Taiwan's President Ma has been doing everything but taking out space in the People's Daily , in an attempt to angle himself to be in a position to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in next year's APEC summit in China. Now that China has smacked down that idea, the President with the 9.5% approval rating in Taiwan does not have to take Beijing's feelings into as much consideration if he wished to ponder the possibility of reengaging with the United States regarding long-stalled military platform purchases.  The President could also look to regain some credibility within his country among those who feel that he has given China far too many concessions in the economic arena, which has placed Taiwan's already fragile sovereignty at great risk. New platform purchases could also boost the morale of Taiwan's military, which has suffered greatly due to the scandal that plagued the army earlier this year.

Mr. President, show us something

There are also a number of reasons why arms sales to Taiwan could be of interest to the United States as well.  One of the great fears among American allies in the region is that the United States could elect to reduce its military presence in the region, forcing them to take more accommodating positions with China that would rather not take. Earlier this year, the United States looked to show the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un (as well as the DPRK's powerful generals) that the United States stood strong with South Korea, and would stand with them and fight if necessary.  This message was delivered loud and clear.  While joint military operation exercises between the United States and Taiwan would be far too politically sensitive at this time, the resumption of talks regarding arms sales to Taiwan would not.  The administration could state its willingness to discuss the sale of platforms long desired by Taiwan's forces, such as the F-16 C/D, AEGIS capable naval vessels, and missiles for Taiwan's air force fleet. Additionally, Randy Schriver of Project 2049 has stated on multiple occasions that there is data that supports the notion that whenever major arms sales have taken place between the United States and Taiwan, diplomatic breakthroughs between Taiwan and China have soon followed.  The administration would also be showing its support for Taiwan by showing that it will not allow China to pressure or coerce Taiwan into political talks that it does not want to enter at this time, something that China in the past has promised not to do. Such a sale, or at least the willingness to talk about one, could be effective at countering China's attempt to back Taiwan into a corner, and showing its citizens that they still have a reliable ally who does not plan on leaving the Pacific anytime soon.

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