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Cablegate: Media Reaction: U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHIN #0181/01 0540844
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230844Z FEB 10
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3364
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9701
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1087

UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 000181

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/P, EAP/PD - THOMAS HAMM
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: U.S. ARMS SALES TO TAIWAN

Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused February
23 news coverage on a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report
released recently on an assessment of Taiwan's air defense
capability; on the year-end five city and county magistrates'
elections; and on Taiwan's improved economic situation. In terms of
editorials and commentaries, an op-ed piece in the China-focused
"Want Daily" provided some new and "atypical" thoughts regarding
U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. An editorial in the pro-independence,
English-language "Taipei Times" discussed the DIA report and
concluded that Taiwan is in desperate need of "advanced F-16 fighter
aircraft or some alternative." End summary.

A) "Atypical Thinking about U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan"

Professor Alexander Huang from the Graduate Institute of
International Affairs and Strategic Studies, Tamkang University,
opined in the China-focused "Want Daily" [circulation: 10,000]
(2/23):

"... As a matter of fact, Beijing does not necessarily have to
protest against U.S. arms sales to Taiwan anymore, because the
paradigm shift in international relations has gradually started, and
new, atypical thinking about the three pairs of bilateral
relationships between Washington, Beijing and Taipei can thus be
developed: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan did not hinder the rise of
mainland China. The past three decades in which the economic and
military power of mainland China have risen rapidly were exactly the
three decades following the establishment of diplomatic ties between
the United States and China, during which Beijing has determined
that the arms sales issue remained unresolved. Yet the power and
energy of Beijing's advancement of its comprehensive national
strength had not been decreased because of these arms sales.

"Second, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan did not slow down the pace and
extent of exchanges across the Taiwan Strait. ... Third, U.S. arms
sales have never resulted in Beijing losing its military deterrence
capabilities against Taiwan. The arms Washington sold to Taiwan
were basically aimed at maintaining the island's minimum needs for
military modernization and were mainly of a defensive nature.
Beijing has never lost the efficacy of its military threats against
Taiwan and thereby failing in its military policy means and
deterrence capabilities just because Taiwan has purchased certain
armaments from the United States. Last, the military items that
Taiwan purchased from the United States were not necessarily used
just to cope with mainland China. ... In other words, the chances
for various countries' national defense armies to fight against each
other will be smaller than these armies working together in joint
combat against cross-border, international public enemies; or to put
in it a simpler way, in the future, the chances of fighting
'evildoers' will be higher than battling 'enemies.' Judging from a
positive and atypical perspective, the probability for armies from
both sides of the Taiwan Strait to fight against each other will be
much smaller than them working together to jointly fight crime and
public enemies. ..."

B) "Without Birds, Arms Sales Is Theater"

The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (2/23):

"If anyone had doubts about Taiwan's ability to defend itself, a
report released by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recently
is sure to turn those into nightmares. ... The report's message is
therefore loud and clear, if not self-evident: Taiwan will need,
soon, advanced fighter aircraft in sufficient quantity to
consolidate one of the principal pillars in its defense strategy:
denying its airspace to the People's Liberation Army Air Force
(PLAAF). ... Aside from hardening hangars and the ability to quickly
repair runways, Taiwan's airbases rely mostly on PAC-2 and PAC-3
missile interceptors for protection against a missile attack. Not
only are the missiles costly (about US$9 million each), but the
two-to-one ratio to ensure the interception of an incoming SRBM
makes it doubly so. Still, the bulk of US arms sales intended for
Taiwan in recent years -- at least in dollar terms -- consists of
such missiles. The PAC-3 missile fire units and 330 missiles
approved by the US government in 2008 are scheduled for delivery in
August 2014. That is more than four years from now, a period during
which the 2nd Artillery and the PLAAF will continue to widen the
military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait.

"The expensive PAC-3 sales make sense only if they are intended to
protect systems that are critical to Taiwan's defense. Aside from
command-and-control, those systems are the Air Force. This means
that absent substantial investments in the modernization of its
fleet of aircraft -- more advanced F-16s or some alternative --
Taiwan would be spending billions of dollars on a missile defense
system that, in the end, would be close to worthless. Washington
didn't need the DIA report to know this, and yet it continues to
stall requests for F-16s. Should it continue to do this, it could be
accused of selling an old lady a prohibitively expensive baseball
bat to protect herself against a squad of Mafiosi equipped with
tanks and machine guns. Taiwan needs birds. Without them,
everything else is theater."

STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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