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U.S. congressmen express concern over delay in arms sale to Taiwan

2017/06/16 13:50:58

CNA file photo

Washington, June 15 (CNA) Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives expressed concern Thursday over China's redoubled efforts to isolate Taiwan and the U.S. government's indecision on arms sales to Taiwan.

In a hearing on Taiwan-U.S. ties, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said it is more important than ever to reassure Taiwan of the U.S.'s commitment to the relationship, at a time when Taiwan is facing new challenges as a result of changes in cross-Taiwan Strait and global dynamics.

Royce pointed to the recent decision by Panama to break off decades of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, with inducements from Beijing, and Taiwan's exclusion from this year's World Health Assembly due to Beijing's obstruction.

On the arms sale issue, he said delays by successive U.S. administrations on arms sales notifications for Taiwan "have needlessly dragged out the arms sales process."

"I hope to see regular notifications in the future, and look forward to the announcement of new sales this year," Royce said.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly had planned to approve an arms sales package of just over US$1 billion to Taiwan in late 2016 but did not do so.

Contrary to expectations that the administration of President Donald Trump would move the package forward quickly, the deal has been delayed to avoid angering China as the U.S. is seeking Beijing's help in dealing with the North Korea issue, according to U.S. media reports.

At Thursday's hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman said that although maintaining ties with China is important to the U.S. and it needs Beijing's help to solve certain problems, Taiwan should not become a bargaining chip in U.S.-China relations.

Meanwhile, Ted Yoho, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said that since 2008, arms sales have been delayed so that they can be bundled together and their timing can be manipulated.

The U.S. has not completed an arms sale to Taiwan since 2015, despite China's increasing global military ambitions, Yoho said.

"The arms sales process has become a political calculation designed to minimize friction with the PRC," he said. "Not only does this concede to Beijing a degree of influence over our arms sales process, it seems to contravene President Reagan's assurance that the PRC would not be consulted on arms sales to Taiwan."

Arguing that the geopolitical reality that held when the U.S. established its "one-China" policy has changed, Yoho proposed that Washington sign a fourth communique with Beijing to spell out clearly what the U.S. will do to contain China's clout.

However, Dan Blumenthal, a former senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the U.S. Department of Defense, expressed opposition to the idea of a fourth U.S.-China communique.

He said China should abide by the three existing communiques and that the U.S. has its own "one-China" policy to implement.

He urged the Trump administration to include Taiwan in its Asia Pacific strategy, particularly on the South China Sea issue.

On the question of whether Taiwan will be able to acquire F-35 fighter jets from the U.S., Blumenthal said a key issue is whether Taiwan can afford the aircraft's exorbitant costs, adding that many other options are available for U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation.

(By Rita Cheng and Y.F. Low)
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