Why US ignores China and sells arms to Taiwan
Riling China, the US's newest $6.4 billion sale includes 60 Blackhawk helicopters, Patriot missiles, and sophisticated command-and-control software.
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He says the latest sale was for "legacy" weapons held over from the Bush admin-istration; many of the others were released in 2007 and 2008. The Obama administration added nothing to the list of systems in the pipeline, he says, and left out Taiwan's more sensitive – and militarily signifi-cant – request for advanced F-16 fighters and submarines.Skip to next paragraph
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"There was nothing new in the release," says Mr. Minnick. "So the question is actually, 'Will the US continue to back Taiwan's defense needs?' "
US weighs its response
Beijing has warned Washington not to sell the F-16s that Taiwan wants. And the submarines request has now likely been "killed," says Ding, of the CCAPS. For several decades, Taiwan's vastly outnumbered military has counted on its edge in quality over the PLA. The PLA's modernization has erased that advantage, leaving Taiwan more dependent than ever on its chief deterrent: the US Navy's Seventh Fleet.
Now, China is developing and deploying submarines, destroyers, and missiles to keep the US out of a fight.
Of particular concern to US planners: an aircraft-carrier-busting antiship ballistic missile, now believed to be in development.
Those expanding capabilities have sparked a debate among Taiwan and US security analysts on how best to respond.
Taiwan's government touts a "preventive defensive" posture that it dubs the "Hard ROC" strategy, a play on Taiwan's formal name, the Republic of China.
In a 2008 essay that was widely discussed in Taiwan's security circles, retired US naval officer William Murray argued that the island should go further, adopting a so-called "porcupine strategy" focused strictly on hunkering down and hardening facilities.
Taiwan's own deterrent
But some in Taiwan say the island needs to strengthen its own offensive deterrent.
"If China continues to modernize its military force, they'll reach a level that our defensive-oriented posture could not withstand," says Ding. He argues Taiwan should develop precision-strike cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles as a deterrent, to "make China think twice" about any attack.
Tamkang University's Lin argues that Taiwan needs F-16s and submarines. But as a last resort, it should also develop a lower-tech deterrent to dissuade China from attempting an occupation of the island.
"Taiwan needs to develop its asymmetrical capabilities, because we cannot confront the PLA head-on," he says. He envisions home-grown, perhaps US-trained "cement jungle guerrilla warfare" units, consisting of trained reserves and snipers who can operate independently and harass PLA occupiers.
"When the PLA comes, let them in – don't engage in bloody, Stalingrad-type warfare," he says. "Give them one shot today, two tomorrow, and three afterward, so they cannot conclude a war."
Taiwan has long been a sticking point in US-Chinese relations. Given today's now more powerful and assertive China, Sino-American ties are even more critical now. But a modest shipment of US arms to Taiwan has elicited a strong Chinese response.