Obama’s Plan to Arm Taiwan

Latest weapons package includes frigates and hundreds of missiles — both anti-tank and anti-air

Obama’s Plan to Arm Taiwan Obama’s Plan to Arm Taiwan
The Obama administration has informed the U.S. Congress of a proposed $1.8 billion arms package for Taiwan, according to Capitol Hill sources. The arms... Obama’s Plan to Arm Taiwan

The Obama administration has informed the U.S. Congress of a proposed $1.8 billion arms package for Taiwan, according to Capitol Hill sources.

The arms package — which is more modest than previous such deals — includes a host of weapons that could blunt an amphibious invasion by the People’s Republic of China. But the restrained scale of the deal is likely an attempt to avoid incurring Beijing’s wrath.

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China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province since the two sides were separated during the Chinese civil war that ended in 1950. The United States — while recognizing only one China — is legally bound to defend the island in case of military action by the mainland.

“The U.S. obligation to provide Taiwan with the weapons it requires for self-defense should not be subject to political considerations, including undue concern about offending sensitives in Beijing,” said Rep. Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee and co-chairman of the Congressional China Caucus.

“Instead, the process should be regularized to ensure that Taiwan is receiving weapons essential to its national defense without years-long delays in these important sales. These sales, coupled with vigorous military-to-military exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan, are essential to sustaining the military balance in the Asia-Pacific and upholding regional stability.”

The guided missile frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36) is under way in the Straits of Florida Sept. 23, 2012, during Unitas Atlantic phase 53-12. Unitas, Latin for "unity," is an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored, multinational naval exercise designed to enhance security cooperation and improve coalition operations between South American and U.S. maritime forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released)Above — the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Underwood. U.S. Navy photo. At top — U.S. Marines aboard USS Bataan with a Stinger simulator. U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. arms package being offered to Taiwan includes the following items, according to Congressional sources:

  • Two of the four surplus Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates that Congress authorized by law for transfer to Taiwan a year ago. Together, the ships will cost Taiwan $190 million to acquire and refurbish.
  • 201 Javelin shoulder-fired anti-armor missiles for $77 million.
  • 769 TOW 2B anti-armor missiles for $268 million.
  • Thirty-six AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles for $375 million.
  • Ten Link 11/Link 16 Communication systems for naval vessels for $120 million.
  • Minesweepers for $108 million.
  • Thirteen Phalanx ship defense systems for $416 million.
  • 250 shoulder-fired STINGER anti-aircraft missiles for $217 million.
  • No-cost lease of the Bilateral Network System — a communications link between U.S. Pacific Command and Taiwan’s military.

The U.S. State Department couldn’t immediately comment on the prospective deal by press time. But the only big-ticket items in the package are the two frigates, which would boost some of Taiwan’s capabilities.

The addition of the Javelins and TOW missiles would make life very difficult for Chinese armor while the Stingers would pose a serious threat to People’s Liberation Army rotary-wing assets and other low-flying aircraft. Meanwhile, the U.S.-provided networking hardware would improve coordination with American forces in the region in the event of a war.

In all, the proposed arms package is far more modest than previous such deals — and the drop off comes as Chinese forces grow ever more capable. Indeed, no weapon included in the package would seriously even the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait, which has steadily tipped in Beijing’s favor in recent years.

The previous U.S. arms package included upgrades for Taiwan’s Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to the latest standards, among other items. But that package also included a promise to supply new diesel-electric attack submarines — which the United States does not manufacture and, ultimately, were never delivered.

The article originally appeared at The National Interest, where Dave Majumdar is defense editor.

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