This is not only because the Chinese made blocking the sale of the Aegis air-
and missile-defense system the focus of the 2001 version of their annual campaign
of anti-arms sale bluster, intimidation and coercion. Since the decision also
deferred or rejected other parts of the Taiwanese requested package - from Patriot
anti-missile batteries to Apache attack helicopters to land-attack Harpoons to
M1-A1 tanks to air-delivered JDAMs and HARM missiles - and since there will
be lengthy delays in the delivery of those systems that were approved, the net
effect of the Bush decision is likely to be read by Beijing, their theatrical
complaints aside, as a gesture without strategic significance.
That will particularly be the case if, as seems predictable, China is able to
lean on the Dutch and Germans not to sell Taiwan diesel-electric submarines.
Or maybe Lockheed-Martin will find it uneconomical to reopen the P-3 production
line for just 12 aircraft. Even the Kidd-class destroyers will not be serviceable
and delivered for two more years.
Against this backdrop, it is all the more important to reflect on the obligations
of the Taiwan Relations Act and the need for a real course correction on American
policy towards China. These are topics addressed in a thoughtful essay by Ambassador
Harvey Feldman that appeared in Monday's Washington Times. In addition to
adopting the approach recommended by Ambassador Feldman, the United States should make
clear that until such time as Taiwan is able to take delivery of the weapons
it needs to defend itself, this country is determined to prevent whatever efforts
the mainland might make to reunify the two Chinas through violent means.
Reagan's commitment to Taiwan; The real meaning of the Taiwan communique
By Amb. Harvey Feldman
The Washington Times, April 23, 2001
Even before the midair collision over the South China Sea caused more turbulence
in Beijing-Washington relations, the arms issue was making its own waves. The
People's Republic of China (PRC) dispatched senior officials to lobby strenuously
against approval of any major items, objecting most strongly to the one heading
Taiwan's list: Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis battle
management system. Yesterday, the Bush administration decided on an arms package
for Taiwan. It did not include the controversial destroyers.
One of Beijing's principal arguments is that any transfer of military equipment
violates the joint communique of Aug. 17, 1982. In that document, the United
States said that "it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales
to Taiwan." Further, the Reagan administration agreed that arms sales to Taiwan
"will not exceed, either in qualitative or quantitative terms, the level of those
supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between
the United States and China, and that it intends to reduce gradually its sales
of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution."
Thus, 19 years after this communique was signed, China insists that the United
States has no business selling any arms to Taiwan, let alone sophisticated equipment.
But Beijing's argument omits some crucial historical facts. Both the text of
the communique and a public statement issued by President Reagan on the day it
was released link arms reduction quite directly to PRC policy and its degree
of threat to Taiwan.
Even more directly and dramatically, in a message to Taiwan's then-President
Chiang Ching-kuo on July 14, 1982 - a message only recently made public - President
Reagan went further: "I want to point out," Mr. Reagan said, "this decision on
the communique with Beijing is based on a PRC decision only to use peaceful means
to resolve the Taiwan issue. On this point, the U.S. will not only pay attention
to what the PRC says, but will also use all methods to achieve surveillance of
PRC military production and military deployment. If there is any change with
regard to their commitment to a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue, the U.S.
commitments concerning arms sales would become invalidated."
The reference to "all methods to achieve surveillance" has particular resonance
now, given Beijing's campaign to end our intelligence-gathering flights. But
the more important question is whether the PRC is committed to a peaceful solution
to the Taiwan issue.
So let's look at the facts. The PRC is steadily increasing the number of land
attack missiles opposite Taiwan. It has been buying advanced combat aircraft,
destroyers and submarines from Russia. It issued two White Papers in 2000, justifying
use of military force if Taiwan delays entering into negotiations for unification.
But at the same time , Beijing has turned down Taiwan's attempts to get a dialogue
started, refusing to enter into talks on any basis other than Taiwan's acceptance
of the proposition that it is a part of China and that the Beijing regime is
the sole legal government of China. As Taiwan has evolved into a thriving democracy,
pressure from the giant dictatorship next door has escalated.
The weapons that Taiwan wants to buy are defensive in character. Taiwan seeks
to protect itself from missile attack, naval blockade and general harassment
from the air and by sea. The idea that Taiwan, with its 23 million people, would
want to start a war with the PRC and its 1.23 billion people, is ridiculous on
The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, commits the United States to "make available
to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may
be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."
It also says that the determination of what and how much to sell should be based
solely on Taiwan's needs. That is exactly what should have been done.
Ambassador Harvey Feldman was a foreign service officer for 32 years, specializing
in Asian affairs. In 1979 he co-chaired the State Department working group that
prepared the initial draft of the Taiwan Relations Act.
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