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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Taiwan Receives U.S. Warships
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Wade Boese

Two refurbished U.S. destroyers sold to Taiwan arrived there Dec. 8, and two more will be transferred this year. But Taiwan’s legislature is blocking other major U.S. arms buys.

President George W. Bush authorized exporting four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers to Taiwan in April 2001. (See ACT, May 2001.) Taiwanese sailors received the first two ships Oct. 29 at a ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, where the ships have been undergoing upgrades.

In 2001, Bush also offered Taiwan eight diesel-powered submarines and a dozen P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft. Separately, Washington has encouraged Taipei to acquire short-range anti-missile systems. (See ACT, June 2003.)

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has fought to win legislative approval of a special budget to procure the U.S. arms, but the Legislative Yuan has balked. Even cutting the original $18 billion request to $11 billion has not swayed the legislature, which is not controlled by Chen’s party. Some legislators have questioned the need for and cost of the weapons.

Chen also has proposed increasing annual defense spending from 2.4 percent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product to 3 percent. This proposal awaits legislative approval as well.

With an eye on China’s military modernization (see ACT, September 2005), Pentagon officials are urging Taiwan to boost its military spending and arms procurement. Beijing has warned that it will use force against Taiwan, which China claims is a renegade province, if Taiwan declares independence or stalls on reunification.

Brigadier General John Allen, who is the principal director of the Pentagon’s Office of Asian and Pacific Affairs, stated Oct. 29, “As [Taiwan] faces the growing threat of a major [Chinese] military buildup, it is imperative that the people of Taiwan hold their leaders of all political parties accountable for reaching a consensus to increase defense spending.”

Similarly, Reuters quoted the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Lieutenant General Jeffrey Kohler, as complaining Dec. 7 that Taiwan has “turned some of their defense issues into a political football.” The DSCA implements U.S. government arms sales.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Arms Control Today Dec. 8 that future U.S. arms exports to Taiwan hinge on the special budget. In sum, the spokesperson said, “If they don’t have the money, there is nothing to talk about.”