Washington must continue sales of defensive weapons to Taipei in light of the growing military threat posed by Beijing, the ROC Ministry of National Defense announced May 8.
“The ROC will not engage in an arms race with mainland China, but US weapons allow the nation to negotiate from a position of confidence in cross-strait talks,” MND spokesman David Lo said.
The MND remarks came one day after US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met his mainland Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie at the Pentagon. Liang’s trip marked the first visit by a top-ranking mainland Chinese defense official to Washington in nine years.
According to Lo, the US is obligated to supply the ROC with defensive weapons under the Taiwan Relations Act. Legislated in 1979 following Washington’s decision to sever formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, the TRA serves as the foundation of the US security commitment to Taiwan.
Downplaying the significance of the meeting between Panetta and Liang, a senior US defense official said Washington’s stance on arms sales to Taipei remains unchanged and is very clear.
The US is rock solid on the TRA and will sell Taiwan weapons to help maintain adequate defense and deterrence capabilities, the official said, adding that a recent White House letter to US Sen. John Cornyn reflects this approach.
In the April 27 communication with Cornyn, the White House said it will consider selling Taiwan F-16 C/D jets to help upgrade the island’s aging fleet and address the growing military threat posed by mainland China.
The letter came after Cornyn greenlighted the nomination of Mark Lipper as new US assistant secretary of defense following nearly six months of wrangling over the scope of the $5.85 billion arms package approved for Taiwan by President Barack Obama.
Announced in September last year, the oft-criticised deal features retrofit packages for Taiwan’s F-16 A/B fleet, but did not include F-16 C/D fighters despite a long-standing request from Taipei. (JSM)