Friday, July 30, 2010

DTN News: Experts See No Big US arms Sales To Taiwan This Year

Defense News: DTN News: Experts See No Big US arms Sales To Taiwan This Year
Source: DTN News - - this article / report compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - July 30, 2010: U.S. officials will defer any major new arms sales to Taiwan until at least 2011 as Beijing steps up pressure on Washington, where mending Sino-U.S. ties is a priority, defense analysts say.
Sales of anything more than minor parts or low end upgrades will wait until early next year, possibly much longer, letting Taiwan trail further in the balance of power against China but advancing relations between the two superpowers, analysts say.
China has used stronger language and action this year, including the snubbing of U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to deter arms sales to Taiwan, the self ruled and democratic island Beijing claims as its own and has threatened to take by force if necessary.
Taiwan depends on its staunchest informal ally the United States for arms and wants new systems to keep up with China.
The island says military strength is crucial even though the two sides have discussed trade and transit links since 2008 under China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou after decades of hostilities, lifting local financial markets.
A delay in getting new weapons systems would further tip a balance of power that already favors China, putting Beijing in an even stronger position to push any potential political resolution between the two sides.
China is rapidly modernizing its military, putting particular emphasis on boosting its air force and navy. Taiwan says it has seen no sign of China removing missiles aimed at the island and estimates the number may rise from about 1,400 to as high as 2,000 this year.
Yet U.S. President Barack Obama is seen focusing more on domestic issues and ties with China, the world's third-largest economy and holder of billions of dollars in U.S. treasuries.
“It's a combination, the perfect storm,” said Wendell Minnick, Asia bureau chief with Defense News. “You've got Obama dealing with domestic issues, you've got China ramping it up and you've got better Taiwan-China ties.”
Some analysts anticipate a brief resumption of arms sales in early 2011 because Sino-U.S. contact normally dwindles at that time of year when both sides take holidays. But most expect Obama to defer the deals as long as China and Taiwan get along.
“Given improvement in cross-Strait relations, Washington doesn't want to see any escalation of arms, so I don't think anything will come out of 2011,” said Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence.
Stuck in the pipeline are an upgrade to Taiwan's existing U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, six new cargo aircraft and an overhaul to a fleet of Lafayette frigates, Minnick said. Taiwan has also asked for 66 new later-model F-16s.
Any of those deals would outrage China, which reacted angrily when the U.S. government approved a US$6.4-billion arms package earlier this year.
Increasingly confident as its economic might grows, China postponed Sino-U.S. military exchanges and threatened sanctions against U.S. firms that sell arms to Taiwan, although little has come of that threat to date.
“China's words and actions are stronger compared to the past,” said Niu Jun, a Peking University international relations professor. “It's not a new tactic but it's getting stronger.”
U.S. officials are coy about the timing of future arms sales, insisting that they do not consult China. But analysts say Washington listens attentively whenever Beijing makes noise.
“When it all boils down to it, it is Chinese pressure and threats,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.
In 1949, the Chinese Civil War ended with the Communists, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, establishing the People's Republic of China and the Nationalists retreating from mainland China to the island of Formosa better known as Taiwan and establishing the Republic of China. The United States recognized Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese state as part of a one China policy.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon, after a period known as Ping Pong diplomacy which included bilateral table tennis exhibitions, the United States recognized the government in Beijing on the mainland as the official Chinese Government. Beijing maintains that Taiwan is part of China and they will be reunited in the future. The US has maintained that any reunification will be accomplished by peaceful means and has provided for Taiwan's security. Over the years, the United States has sold arms to Taiwan angering China. China has responded with military exercises and missile launches in Taiwanese territorial waters and airspace. For nearly forty years, the US has been balancing improving relations with China and keeping its commitment to Taiwan.
The Arms Sale
The package of Patriot interceptor missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, Harpoon land and sea missiles, and communications equipment constitutes the largest arms sale to Taiwan in many years. Despite strong pro-Taiwan rhetoric early in the Bush Administration, US companies sold relatively few weapons to Taiwan during the Bush era. The State Department maintains that the latest arms sale is necessary to ensure security in the Taiwan Strait.
China's Response
China is furious with the sale. In its toughest response in three decades to US arms sales to Taiwan, Beijing announced over the weekend that it would curtail military exchanges with Washington, and sanction US companies involved, and warned of severe harm to bilateral ties. Regarding the sanctions against the US companies involved, the US has not sold arms to China since the 1989 crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square. However, Boeing is one of the companies involved in the sale, and there are fears that sanctions could extend to the purchase of commercial airliners.
Cooperation on issues such as Iran, North Korea and economic relations could be problematic. Secretary Clinton is seeking China's support for a new regime of sanctions against Iran and may not find much support in Beijing. The US has been pressing China on opening its markets and climate change but may discover new resistance. It will be interesting to see if President Hu Jintao of China was invited to President Obama's nuclear summit in April. However, it is unlikely that the US Government would back down from this arms sale and risk looking weak both to the international community and the opposition in America.
*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News, contact:

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