TAI­WAN ARMS THAW

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

The Pen­tagon is ex­pected to no­tify Congress in the next sev­eral days that it wants ap­proval to sell Tai­wan a ma­jor arms pack­age, which would end a freeze on arms sales to the is­land state im­posed be­fore the Bei­jing Olympics, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior de­fense of­fi­cial.

The arms pack­age is ex­pected to in­clude seven weapons sys­tems but not ad­vanced F-16 jets sought by the is­land, said Ja­son Yuan, Tai­wan’s chief diplo­matic rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the United States.

The de facto Tai­wanese am­bas­sador told re­porters and ed­i­tors at The Wash­ing­ton Times that he ex­pects the Pen­tagon to make the no­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore Congress ad­journs around Sept. 26. “I’m op­ti­mistic be­cause we don’t think we’re go­ing to get any op­po­si­tion from the Congress,” Mr. Yuan said of the for­mal no­ti­fi­ca­tion and ex­pected 30-day con­gres­sional ap­proval process.

Mr. Yuan dis­puted the widely re­ported arms freeze that was put in place and ac­knowl­edged by Adm. Ti­mothy J. Keat­ing, the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand leader.

As first re­ported in this space in May, the arms freeze was backed by U.S. Am­bas­sador to China Clark T. Randt Jr., who urged Pres­i­dent Bush to tem­po­rar­ily cut off sales to avoid up­set­ting China be­fore the Olympics.

Mr. Yuan said po­lit­i­cal squab­bling in Tai­wan caused de­lays in ap­prov­ing Taipei’s arms bud­get, which fi­nally passed the leg­is­la­ture in June.

Mr. Yuan said that af­ter the inau­gu­ra­tion in May of Tai­wanese leader Ma Ying-jeou, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion asked for a “di­rect mes­sage” from Tai­wan about whether the gov­ern­ment wanted the arms.

“We made it very very clear from the top down to here,” Mr. Yuan said of Tai­wan’s need for the arms deal. “We said we’re se­ri­ous, [the arms bud­get] al­ready passed the [Tai­wan] congress. Please no­tify the [U.S.] Congress.”

Pen­tagon press sec­re­tary Ge­off Mor­rell de­clined to say when the arms-sale no­ti­fi­ca­tion would go to Congress, and he said the pack­age re­mains un­der in­ter­a­gency re­view. “When the in­ter­a­gency process achieves a fi­nal de­ci­sion for any spe­cific arms sales, we will no­tify Congress,” he said in an e-mail.

Mr. Yuan said “time is short” for the no­ti­fi­ca­tion and that if it is not made be­fore Congress ends its cur­rent ses­sion, the con­tentious bud­get­ing process in Tai­wan will have to be re­peated, beginning in Jan­uary.

The arms pack­age is ex­pected to in­clude most or all of the fol­low­ing re­quested arms: E-2T sur­veil­lance air­craft up­grades; Patriot PAC-3 anti-mis­sile sys­tems; a fea­si­bil­ity study for build­ing eight diesel-elec­tri­cal sub­marines; sub­marinelaunched har­poon mis­siles; trans­port and at­tack he­li­copters; and a midrange anti-ar­mor mis­sile.

Mr. Yuan said Tai­wan also had bud­geted for the pur­chase of ad­vanced F-16 jets to re­place older Tai­wanese in­dige­nous fight­ers, but the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is not ex­pected to ap­prove jet sales un­til the other arms are pur­chased first.

All the arms are de­fen­sive weapons needed to help Tai­wan en­gage in a di­a­logue with main­land China, Mr. Yuan said. “De­fense items [are] the key,” he said. “If we don’t have strength, how can you open up a di­a­logue with them? They still have a thou­sand mis­siles aimed at us.”

Bill Gertz cov­ers na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at in­sid­e­ther­ing@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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