Taiwan Says U.S. Ties to Suffer if Arms Deal Fails
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's Foreign Minister warned
lawmakers on Wednesday that ties with Washington would
be hurt if parliament failed to approve an $18 billion
budget to buy advanced U.S. weapons.
Mark Chen, the minister, spoke after the Pentagon
(news - web sites)'s top policymaker for Asia said
passage of the budget was a litmus test in U.S. eyes.
"If the Legislative Yuan fails to pass this budget, it
will be much harder to convince foreign partners to
support your defense," Richard Lawless, a deputy U.S.
under secretary of defense, said in remarks delivered
on Monday and released by the Pentagon on Wednesday.
"Friends and foes alike will begin to regard Taiwan as
a liability, rather than a partner," he said. "Make no
mistake, the passage of this budget is a litmus test
of Taiwan's commitment to its self-defense -- for
Washington and Beijing."
Earlier on Wednesday, Chen told lawmakers any
rejection of the arms deal "will affect the foundation
of mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States."
The issue drew thousands of protesters into the
streets last month. Opposition lawmakers, who hold a
slim majority in parliament, say the weapons are too
expensive. Lawmakers are due to consider the package
in coming weeks.
Lawless's remarks reflected U.S. frustration over
delays in funding the purchase of six batteries of
Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defenses, 12
P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft and eight
In April 2001, President Bush (news - web sites)
offered to help Taiwan acquire the submarines and
approved the possible sale of the Lockheed Martin
Corp.-built anti-submarine aircraft as part of the
biggest weapons package in a decade.
"Many in the United States and in the world have
questioned Taiwan's commitment to its defense and if
the budget fails to pass, I fear they will be proven
right," Lawless said.
He spoke at a defense industry conference in
Scottsdale, Arizona, the third in a series organized
by the private U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.
"If you hear a sense of urgency in my words, it is
because the situation in the (Taiwan) strait is dire,"
In addition to Taiwan's vulnerability to short-range
missiles, he said Beijing was "actively pursuing
tactics to create chaos on the island," for instance
by preparing to shut down telecommunications,
utilities, broadcast media, cellular links, computer
networks and other infrastructure.
Beijing has viewed Taiwan as a breakaway province
since a civil war in 1949. Taiwan's president, Chen
Shui-bian, has called the U.S. weapons critical to
counter China's buildup.
Under a 1979 law under which it shifted diplomatic
recognition, the United States is obligated to help
Taiwan acquire the arms necessary to defend itself.
Lawless said Taiwan should look at additional systems
to counter China's "increasingly lethal" threat
assuming the special budget was enacted by parliament.
Among these are upper tier missile defense systems,
more advanced destroyers with sophisticated air
defense systems and the next generation of fighter
aircraft, he said.
(Additional reporting by Jim Wolf in Washington)