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U.S. conducting assessment of Taiwan's defense needs

2010/10/06 17:37:37

Washington, Oct. 5 (CNA) Washington has begun a sweepingassessment of Taiwan's defense needs over the next five to 10 yearsto determine the types of defensive weapon systems the United States should provide it with, a U.S. business leader said Tuesday.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan BusinessCouncil, which groups U.S. companies with interests in Taiwan, madethe remarks following the 2010 U.S.-Taiwan Defense IndustryConference that took place in Cambridge, Maryland Oct. 3-5, bringingtogether more than 140 government officials, scholars, experts anddefense company representatives.

The assessment, the most complete and comprehensive of its kindin 10 years, will include an examination of the threat faced byTaiwan from China and Taiwan's capacity to engage in asymmetricwarfare, Hammond-Chambers said.

Participants from Taiwan and the U.S. at the annual conferenceagreed unanimously that although Taiwan and China have concluded aneconomic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that is set tofurther enhance cross-Taiwan Strait economic ties, China's militarythreat to Taiwan persists and the strait remains "one of the globe'spotential flashpoints," according Hammond-Chambers.

Taiwan's deputy defense minister, Andrew Yang, also said in aspeech at the conference that the security threat faced by Taiwanfrom China has not declined because of the ECFA, but in fact hasincreased.

Hammond-Chambers said that after the assessment is completed inthe next one or two years, the U.S. will not "tell" Taiwan whatdefense systems it is getting, but instead will "begin dialogue withTaiwan" on the contents of the assessment, as well as on Taiwan'sability to afford arms purchases.

On Taiwan's renewed call for the U.S. to sell it F-16C/Dfighters, he said that to his knowledge, the U.S. is not thinking somuch about whether it should sell Taiwan the advanced jet fighters,but more about the best timing to make the sale.

Hammond-Chambers said it would not surprise him if theadministration of U.S. President Barack Obama announces the F-16C/Dsale within a year, as well as the upgrading of the F-16A/B fighterscurrently used by Taiwan's air force.

Yang noted a day earlier that Taiwan has long sought to acquireF-16C/D jet fighters and upgrade its F-16A/Bs to guard the country'sairspace and enhance its self-defense capability.

"The purchase of 66 F-16C/Ds and the upgrading of F-16A/Bs aretwo different cases and they are not alternative cases subject tochoice between the two," Yang said.

(By Jorge Liu and Deborah Kuo)