I find it hard to understand the global conflicts developing as the United States continues to press to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Taiwan. This sale is a continuation of the American policy of supplying military hardware to this Island nation, which lies a short distance from China, across the Taiwan Strait. Items included in the sale are 60 Black Hawk helicopters, 114 Patriot missile systems, 12 advanced Harpoon missiles, and two Osprey mine-hunting ships. Firms involved are Boeing, including its Raytheon unit, United Technologies, and Lockheed Martin.
The sale is in line with The Taiwan Relations Act which requires the U.S. to provide Taiwan weapons for defense. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, following a civil war in 1949 in which Communist forces overpowered Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists who fled to the island. China has vowed to reunite mainland China with Taiwan, with force if necessary, while the U.S. has said it will protect Taiwan.
But wait! We read optimistic reports that Taiwan and China are enjoying increasingly good relations with one another. Longstanding trade tariffs have been lifted and commerce between the nations is much improved. The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between trade representatives from mainland China and Taiwan was signed in late June, and negotiators spoke of a new era in ties across the Taiwan Strait. The nations formulated a 16-part act to “..gradually reduce and remove trade and investment barriers and create a fair environment.” That same agreement calls for the nations to “respect each other’s intellectual property.”
China, as does the United States, sees itself as second to none in the world, as a 21st century visionary nation. Tourism between the U.S. and China, as well as international sports events such as the Olympics and modern communication such as the Internet, have all contributed to improved relations between China and the U.S. We still have differences. The U.S. supports sanctions being applied to Iran in connection to the Iranian nuclear policy. China would disallow these sanctions. The United States has ongoing hostility with North Korea, whom we view as aggressive, and as a potential nuclear threat. China tends to favor North Korea, as does Russia. Simply stated, it seems wise and diplomatic for the United States to continue seeking a bond with China.
On January 31 this year, The New York Times published articles indicating that the Chinese government had announced an unusually broad range of retaliatory measures in response to the proposed weapon sale to Taiwan. These retaliatory measures would include, The Times pointed out, sanctions against American companies that would supply the arms for sale to Taiwan. Further, Beijing canceled important military exchange programs. The U.S. ambassador was called in by Chinese vice-foreign minister He Yafei to protest the sales. A planned visit to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June was canceled; Gates took the position that The Peoples Liberation Army (the PLA) was “reluctant to engage in defense issues.” Gates suggested a rift between Chinese civilian and military leaders.
The China Daily accused the U.S. of gross interference in China’s internal affairs, of undermining China’s national security and reunification, and of “casting a long shadow” on Sino-U.S. relations. They said that no nation can “sit idle” while its national security is endangered, and its core interests damaged.
China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. China has increasing importance in the global economy. President Obama has expressed concern over the Chinese view on civil rights. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao had scheduled a meeting to discuss civil rights in November; that meeting is now in jeopardy. The Global Times made the statement that the arms sales to Taiwan will most likely continue regardless of who occupies the White House. They go on to say, “It’s time the U.S. was made to feel the heat for the continuing arms sales to Taiwan.”
The Taipei Times addresses some related issues. The article criticizes United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks that we are opposed to any country attempting to back up a claim of sovereignty with military force. Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi called Clinton’s speech an attack on China, and took offense at what he called the U.S.’s biased position. Obama attempted to mollify the damage in a speech stressing that the U.S. is not trying to contain China, and on the contrary, China’s rise is helpful to the international economy and security.
I question whether we are obligated to sell arms for Taiwanese defense at a time when they have no enemies, no threat of military encounter.
Author’s note: Since preparing this article, I have become aware of some new aspects of the weapons sale proposed. The list of requested weapons came from President Ma Ying-jeou; this list involves torpedoes, tanks, amphibious landing vehicles, and more. No submarines nor fighter aircraft are scheduled for transfer.
Although acknowledging an easing of tensions, the Taiwanese president sites the refusal of Beijing to rule out force, should Taiwan declare formal independence. It is stated that China has 1400 missiles aimed at Taiwan.