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Friday, October 06, 2006

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F-16s: Bush screws US, Taiwan, Japan....

'A week,!' said Hirgon. 'If it must be so, it must. But you are like to find only ruined walls in seven days from now, unless other help unlooked-for comes.'

I knew in 2000 that the Bush Administration was going to be an absolute disaster for the US, but the one silver lining I saw in that spreading ichor of dark clouds was the Administration's support for Taiwan. Now it looks like even that tiny sliver of good has been lost, as the Bush Administration has suspended F-16 sales to Taiwan.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said that although the US Department of Defense supported the sale of F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan, US President George W. Bush had decided to suspend the sale.

"Bush decided to suspend the arms procurement because Taiwan has not made any progress with its long-delayed arms procurement bill," Lee told the legislature's National Defense Committee yesterday.

"A high-ranking official from the US Department of Defense in charge of US arms sales to foreign countries earlier this year told the Ministry of National Defense (MND) that the US would sell F-16C/D fighter jets to the country," Lee said.

"The American Institute in Taiwan in late August submitted a reference of the prices at which the US was selling F-16C/D fighters to its allies, but since that time there has been no progress on the arms sales from the US, and the MND later learned from US officials that Bush had decided to suspend the bill," the minister said.


Last month, the media reported that the White House National Security Council had recommended that the F-16 sale be blocked, because the island's legislature had refused to purchase the overpriced and useless submarines, the pointless P-3C Orion subhunting aircraft, and the extremely useful Patriots missiles.

The White House National Security Council (NSC) has advised U.S. President George W. Bush to reject new sales of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in order to avoid upsetting China, according to The Washington Times Friday.

The move would also signal disapproval with Taipei for its failure to procure submarines, surveillance aircraft and anti-missile defenses offered by the United States since 2001, the paper said.


"To avoid upsetting China"! All gods forbid that we upset China! What a spineless, shortsighted, self-defeating decision! Consider: the presence of additional fighters will help deter Chinese military aggression against Taiwan, and force them to purchase far more fighters to cope with the Taiwanese jets. In case of war they will represent 60 fighters that the US will not have to supply, pay for, maintain, and staff with pilots and mechanics. When war comes, the US one way or another will have to supply 60 fighters, and more than 60. Here's someone offering to pay, staff, and maintain them in a forward position. Duh.

Further, by not sending F-16s to Taiwan, the US rewards the KMT-led Blue alliance for blocking the arms purchase. The KMT does not want any arms purchases at the moment, since it is cooperating with China, successful purchases the DPP look good, and no kickbacks will come to them. The Blue camp must be quaking in its boots: Don't throw us in the briar patch again, Uncle Sam! If the US really wants Taiwan to purchase those weapons, it needs to lean on the Blues, and hard. It needs to stop coddling KMT visitors. It needs to get credible people over here who will warn the KMT that US patience is exhausted, and that the US will switch its support to the Greens if the KMT does not start serving the interests of Taiwan, and it needs to keep doing that until the message gets through. It is incredible at this late date, with the Blues blocking the arms purchase after promising it would go through, fomenting unrest in Taiwan's streets, paralyzing the government, and cooperating with China, that any American policymaker could consider them a viable partner for future long-term cooperation.

Militarily, this is an ill-considered decision. Recall that the US wants Taiwan to buy P-3C Orion antisubmarine aircraft. There's no doubt that such aircraft would be useful for Taiwan in its quest to free the oceans of Chinese submarines. However, these are huge, slow, four-engine propeller aircraft that cannot be used unless Taiwan controls the airspace around the island. Taiwan cannot do that without fighter aircraft -- and here the US is refusing to sell Taiwan such aircraft. We won't even mention that in modern history no large invasion has been successful in the face of enemy control of the air. That's just too obvious.

The Bush Administration also has failed its allies -- what is Japan supposed to think of our commitment to regional security, and to peace in the Taiwan Strait? The Administration has an opportunity here to signal Japan that it is willing to support Japan in areas that nation considers vital to its strategic interests. Instead it is fumbling the ball.

There is no angle from which selling F-16s to Taiwan is a bad idea. That's millions of revenues for US corporations and their workers, and 60 more aircraft to keep the peace in the region, support our allies, and assure democracy in Taiwan. Even China will get over it sooner or later. I hope the US NSC wakes up soon, and gives us the weapons we need to keep Taiwan free. "For the love of God, Montresor!" don't wall us up in the catacombs of Chinese aggression-- sell us the F-16s!


(crossposted at The View from Taiwan)

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