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Saturday, November 11, 2006

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One thing missing from US commentary on Arms Purchase

If you read the Wendell Minnick article below carefully, you will see the following sentence:

Officials at the Taiwan Ministry of Defense did not even send lawmakers their first "special budget" proposal to buy the U.S. arms until 2004.

That is true, but it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is more interesting, and it disappears in US commentary on the arms purchase impasse: the price of the subs is outrageous and the delay partly the fault of the US side. The subs were originally offered by Bush in 2001. However, the US navy did not get out a cost estimate on the subs for more than year, not until Dec of 2002. This meant that the Taiwan government did not get a chance to consider the matter until 2003, and of course a year of study was necessary before anything could be decided by the Ministry of Defense (which Chen personally pushed to get the job done), bureaucracies being what they are.

In other words, the delay began when the US dragged its feet issuing a price, and then set that price at three times the world rate, due to US internal politics. Why? If conventional submarines are built for Taiwan, the US will have to do it, because no one else will. However, the US Navy does not want a conventional sub capacity in the US, since conventional subs are cheaper than nukes. The Navy wants nukes, and fears that Congress will make it buy conventional subs if such a production capacity were available in the US. Hence it set the price far too high. Naturally, this insight is missing from comments by AIT chief Steve Young and other Americans who have been pressuring Taiwan to buy subs. As long as the subs are so costly, the KMT's opposition cannot be considered entirely irrational.

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