Pen­tagon fears arms sale to Tai­wan may fray China ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

The Pen­tagon is brac­ing for some cut­backs in mil­i­tary and other co­op­er­a­tion ef­forts with China as a re­sult of a new arms pack­age for Tai­wan.

China likely will cut off sev­eral mil­i­tary ex­changes with the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, can­cel some high-level vis­its and end lim­ited co­op­er­a­tion with Washington on arms pro­lif­er­a­tion, said U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with in­ter­nal as­sess­ments of the arms sale.

How­ever, the of­fi­cials said they do not ex­pect a com­plete break in mil­i­tary ties with Bei­jing, as oc­curred tem­po­rar­ily in 2008 and last year af­ter deals were an­nounced.

“China does not want a ma­jor dis­rup­tion in re­la­tions,” said one of­fi­cial, who noted that Bei­jing’s key pri­or­ity is avoid­ing a spat with the United States as com­mu­nist lead­ers pre­pare for the tran­si­tion from Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao to Vice Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, set for the fall of 2012.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary on its own, how­ever, could un­der­take some reprisals, as it did in 2007 by block­ing the air­craft car­rier USS Kitty Hawk from mak­ing a sched­uled Thanks­giv­ing Day port call to Hong Kong.

A Chi­nese gen­eral last year urged China to pun­ish the United States by call­ing in some of China’s U.S. Trea­sury debt hold­ings, cur­rently es­ti­mated at $1.1 tril­lion.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced last week the sale of a pack­age of equip­ment and weapons worth $5.8 bil­lion to up­grade Tai­wan’s fleet of 145 F16 jets.

In agree­ing to the up­grades, Pres­i­dent Obama and White House of­fi­cials re­jected a pro­posal sought by some in the ad­min­is­tra­tion to of­fer Tai­wan 66 new and more ad­vanced F-16 C/D jets.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials briefed Congress on the deal Sept. 16 and are de­fend­ing the de­ci­sion not to sell new jets by as­sert­ing that the up­grades will give mod­ern­ized Tai­wanese F16s a “near-C/D” ca­pa­bil­ity.

A con­gres­sional mil­i­tary spe­cial­ist, how­ever, said the ex­pected arms pack­age will be in­suf­fi­cient in bol­ster­ing Tai­wan’s air power.

The White House turned down the sale of C/D jets be­cause of con­cerns that the sale would up­set re­la­tions with China more than a sale to up­grade older jets, the of­fi­cials said.

In ad­di­tion to an­nounc­ing the Tai­wanese mil­i­tary up­grade, the Pen­tagon re­leased a con­gres­sion­ally man­dated study on Tai­wan’s air power.

The study con­cludes that Tai- wan’s mil­i­tary should buy short­take­off and ver­ti­cal-land­ing jets such as the Bri­tish-de­sign AV-8B Har­rier jump jet or the new F35B ver­ti­cal-take­off ver­sion, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the air­craft.

That con­clu­sion was based on an­tic­i­pated Chi­nese mis­sile strikes against Tai­wanese air­fields with cra­ter­ing mu­ni­tions that would thwart take­offs by F16s and other jets.

A de­fense of­fi­cial said that con­clu­sion ap­pears skewed to sup­port the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion not to sell new F-16s by high­light­ing airstrip vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials, China’s govern­ment also lob­bied se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den dur­ing his re­cent trip to Bei­jing, against sell­ing new jets.

In Bei­jing, a govern­ment spokesman crit­i­cized plans for the up­grade af­ter re­ports, first dis­closed by The Washington Times, that Mr. Obama had ap­proved the arms pack­age for the is­land, which Bei­jing views as a break­away prov­ince.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Jiang Yu told re­porters Sept. 16 that “China firmly op­poses U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan.” She called on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to abide by a 1982 joint U.S.-China com­mu­nique and “stop sell­ing arms to Tai­wan.”

Ac­cord­ing to China’s Caixun fi­nan­cial news out­let, the Peo­ple’s Daily, the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party news­pa­per, stated re­cently in an editorial that China should use “fi­nan­cial weapons” against the United States if it sells new F-16s to Tai­wan, even if do­ing so would iso­late China.

The de­ci­sion not to sell new F16s prompted harsh re­ac­tion from Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Repub­li­can, who had been push­ing for new jets for Tai­wan as a way to bol­ster the is­land’s se­cu­rity and cre­ate jobs.

The F-16 is made by Lock­heed Martin, which has an air­craft pro­duc­tion fac­tor y in Texas.

Mr. Cornyn called re­ports that the F-16 C/Ds were re­jected “ca­pit­u­la­tion to com­mu­nist China by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion” and said the de­ci­sion “marks a sad day in Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy, and it rep­re­sents a slap in the face to a strong ally and long­time friend.”

“This sale would have been a win-win, bol­ster­ing the national se­cu­rity of two demo­cratic na­tions and sup­port­ing jobs for an Amer­i­can work­force that des­per­ately needs them,” Mr. Cornyn said.

Mr. Cornyn, with Sen. Robert Me­nen­dez, New Jersey Demo­crat, re­cently in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire the ad- min­is­tra­tion to sell the new C/D jets. It con­tains a pro­vi­sion that states that the United States “must pro­vide” Tai­wan with new fighter air­craft un­der the terms of the 1979 Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act.

A Sept. 19 re­port in the Chi­nese state-run news­pa­per Global Times stated that, de­spite its op­po­si­tion to the F-16 up­grade, China is not ex­pected to halt all mil­i­tary ex­changes.

The news­pa­per quoted a Chi­nese editor as say­ing a cut­off of all mil­i­tary ties would heighten con­cerns about China’s ex­pand­ing mil­i­tary power.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has been seek­ing closer mil­i­tary ties to China. In Jan­uary, De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates pro­posed hold­ing talks on nu­clear weapons, mis­sile de­fenses, cy­ber­war­fare and space. A Chi­nese gen­eral promised to study the pro­posal.

Pen­tagon spokesman Ge­orge Lit­tle de­clined to com­ment on the pend­ing arms sale. He said U.S. arms-sale pol­icy is based on the three joint com­mu­niques with China and the Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act.

On mil­i­tary ties, Mr. Lit­tle said: “From our per­spec­tive, we have made progress in our di­a­logue as we work to­ward a healthy, sta­ble and re­li­able and con­tin­u­ous mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary re­la­tion­ship.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.