US Moving to Make Arms Sales to Taiwan More Routine

Cycle of suspense and rage

Washington's July 8 approval of a $2.2 billion arms package was the latest oneoff case that angered China. After the State Department told Congress it wanted to sell 108 Americanmade M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles to Taiwan, Chinese officials demanded the sale's cancellation and said it would sever ties with any companies involved.

China sees selfruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than a state entitled to its own defense. It resents other countries, especially the United States as the world's top military power, for selling arms to Taiwan.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said July 9 it welcomed the $2.2 billion sale, which had been pending since Taiwan made requests for weapons in March. But the island government had also hoped the deal would include new F16 fighter planes to replace today's aging fleet.

Adding to Taiwan's suspense, former U.S. President Barack Obama had paused sales announcements for as long as two years, said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan. President Donald Trump's administration has announced four packages since 2017.

For a long time, the way to process the arms sales have been a political headache in different forms for many years under many different American administrations, Huang said.

Schriver probably hopes to process sales regardless of timing or any pressure from China to spike a sale, he said. Today's sales, he added, are granted case by case partly based on the extent of China's likely backlash.

New normal for Taiwan?

Schriver did not elaborate on how Washington would make Taiwan a more normal arms client, but analysts forecast more of what Trump's government has already done.

My personal view is that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have already become routine, over the past year or two, said David An, senior research fellow with the Washington, D.C.based policy consultancy Global Taiwan Institute.

The new way of business means approving or rejecting each Taiwan arms request on its own merit within about three months, An said. Past U.S. administrations, he said, would let requests accumulate and then approve them all together once or twice a year.

It's already happening, said Andrew Yang, secretarygeneral of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan. Now it's the IndoPacific assistant secretary, he strongly supports this new approach, and I think this is going to be the direction for the future.

China will still get mad, Yang said, but there's nothing they can do about it if the sales are U.S. policy. Washington will ultimately ignore Chinese pressure, he said.

Source: Voice of America