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U.S. arms sales to Taiwan justified, declassified Reagan memo reveals

2019/09/18 22:24:05

CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) A recently declassified White House document published by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) provides evidence that American arms sales to Taiwan do not flout the terms of a joint communique issued by the United States and China in August 1982, despite Beijing's strong protest against such deals.

The declassified memo, dated Aug. 17, 1982, was sent by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan to his Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Defense Minister Caspar Weinberger, detailing the president's interpretation of the communiqué, which was signed the same day.

In the memo, Reagan said he had agreed to "the issuance of a joint communique with the People's Republic of China (PRC) in which we express United States policy toward the matter of continuing arms sales to Taiwan.

"The talks leading up to the signing of the communique were premised on the clear understanding that any reduction of such arms sales depends upon peace in the Taiwan Straits and the continuity of China's declared 'fundamental policy' of seeking a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue," according to the memo, which was published on the AIT website.

"It should be clearly understood that the linkage between these two matters is a permanent imperative of U.S. foreign policy," the memo states.

Furthermore, the quality and quantity of the arms provided to Taiwan depend entirely on the threat posed by China, Reagan said in the memo.

"Both in quantitative and qualitative terms, Taiwan's defense capability relative to that of the PRC will be maintained," he wrote.

On Aug. 30 this year, then U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton declassified the communiqué, and it was published recently by the AIT, amid ongoing protests by China over the U.S.' decision to continue to supply arms of a defensive nature to Taiwan.

Over the past two months, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved two separate arms packages to Taiwan -- a fleet of 66 new F-16 Block 70/72 jet fighters and 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks.

In its protests, China has accused the U.S. of violating the "one China" principle and the three Joint Communiqués, particularly the 1982 communiqué.

The communiqués are three joint statements signed by the U.S. and China in 1972, 1979 and 1982, respectively, which played a crucial role in the establishment of diplomatic ties between them on Jan. 1, 1979 and continue to be an essential element in their bilateral dialogue.

According to the 1982 communiqués, the U.S. government "states that it does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan ... and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan."

The Republic of China (Taiwan) severed formal links with the U.S. on the same day the latter established diplomatic ties with the PRC in 1979. That same year, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), under which the U.S. promised to "provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character."

It is also the U.S.' policy "to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan," according to the TRA.

Over the past 40 years, Washington has sold Taiwan many defensive weapons based on the TRA, since Beijing has been reluctant to denounce the use of military force against Taiwan or to withdraw its missile deployment targeting Taiwan.

A diplomatic source told CNA Wednesday that while China has always protested the arms sales, the U.S. has not been deterred, because of the Reagan memo.

"Reagan knew the 1982 communiqué was flawed," so he used the note to negate some of its content, the source told CNA. Successors to the Reagan administration have also followed the memo, the source said.

In a handwritten note on March 1, 1982, Reagan also said, "We keep our promises to Taiwan - period."

The note is stored in the U.S. National Archives.

(By Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)
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