Sun, Jan 31, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan arms sale moves to Congress

NO SURPRISESUS President Barack Obama notified Congress of the sale. China suspended US military exchanges and imposed sanctions on US companies

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A child runs past a torpedo on display outside the Taiwan Armed Forces Museum in Taipei yesterday. The administration of US President Barack Obama notified Congress on Friday of its first proposed arms sale to Taiwan, a potential US$6.4 billion package.

PHOTO: PICHI CHUANG, REUTERS

US President Barack Obama officially notified US Congress on Friday that he would sell more than US$6 billion in weapons to Taiwan, but as was widely predicted, he did not include advanced F-16 fighter planes in the latest arms package.

There were no big surprises in the announcement, which the Obama administration first signaled weeks ago.

While there was no mention in the latest notification of Taiwan’s request for design work on diesel-electric submarines, US defense sources said it was still under consideration.

China said yesterday it was suspending military exchanges and security talks with Washington and would impose sanctions on US firms involved in the arms deal.

The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that in protest at the US decision on weapons sales to Taiwan it was suspending military exchanges, along with scheduled high-level talks on strategic security, arms control and non-proliferation.

Obama is proposing five separate sales: 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, costing US$3.1 billion; 114 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles, radar sets and other related equipment and services, costing US$2.81 billion; 10 RTM-84L Harpoon missiles along with 2 ATM-84L Harpoon missiles and other related equipment, costing US$37 million; 2 refurbished Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, costing US$105 million and finally 35 Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems and other related equipment, costing US$340 million.

Congress now has 30 days to comment before the sales go forward, but analysts say there is unlikely to be any serious objection.

The Associated Press said the sale satisfied parts of a US$11 billion arms package originally pledged to Taiwan by former US president George W. Bush in 2001, which has been provided in stages because of political and ­budgetary considerations in Taiwan and the US.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said: “The Obama administration has left an urgent matter unaddressed in the form of the F-16s. In the absence of a decision on this issue, it will continue to cause tensions in the triangular relationship between the US, Taiwan and China throughout 2010.”

“President Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] ability to continue to engage the Chinese is becoming increasingly tenuous in the face of a resurgent Democratic Progressive Party and a China playing a hedge strategy with its economic carrot and its military stick,” he said. “Strong support for Taiwan strengthens both our own and Taiwan’s standing with China, sends a strong signal about America’s commitment to Asia, and fortifies America’s core interests — peace and security in the Taiwan Strait.”

That said, the US Taiwan Business Council pointed out in a three-page statement that the Black Hawk sales were particularly welcome as Taiwan’s need for replacement helicopters was “acute both for military and disaster relief operations.”

A senior US official speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Taiwan’s request for 66 ­­F-16­C/D fighters was still under consideration, but refused to say when a decision was likely.

He added: “We have discussed that with them [Taipei] on a variety of occasions and we’re in the process of assessing Taiwan’s needs and requirements for that capability.”

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: “This is a clear demonstration of the commitment that this administration has to provide Taiwan the defensive weapons it needs and as provided for in the Taiwan Relations Act.

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