President Ma urges US to sell Taiwan more arms

Friday, April 24, 2009
The Taiwanese president, Ma Ying-jeou, has called on the United States to consider selling more arms to Taiwan, saying that such a request is justified and the arms sales will help Taiwan to maintain a military balance against China.

He made this call on Wednesday, while addressing US think tank academics via teleconferencing from Taipei. "The delicate balance of the status quo is being shaken by the gross military imbalances across the (Taiwan) Strait. Therefore, I urge the United States to not hesitate to provide Taiwan with the necessary defensive arms as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)," Ma said via teleconferencing from Taiwan in a forum on the TRA.

Ma's comment in the forum, with the theme "US-Taiwan Relations in a New Era: Looking Forward 30 Years After the Taiwan Relations Act," was his first major public statement to US political and academic sectors since he took office last May. He promised that Taiwan will not "free-ride" on the US for its own security, as it has taken several steps to show its intention to build its military strength.

Those steps, he explained, included publishing a quadrennial defence review last month, making plans to create an all volunteer force to enhance the professionalism of the military and increasing the defence budget to at least three percent of the country's GDP. During a Q&A session, Ma urged the US to approve Taiwan's requests to acquire submarines and high performance jet fighters such as the F-16 C/D because they are for defensive purposes.

"In view of the sharp changes in the military balance across the Taiwan Strait, I think it is fully justified for the US to seriously consider selling them (to Taiwan),"the president said. Given the warming cross-strait ties, he said, Washington should not be worried that such arms sales would jeopardize its relations with China. "Even China understands very well that at the moment we want to improve relations with the mainland. But we also, as a government, have to maintain a military balance across the Taiwan Strait," he said. The US has long been Taiwan's major weapon supplier, despite the fact that this has been an irritant in US-China relations.

In the latest arms deal between Taiwan and the US, the administration of former President George W Bush approved in October 2008, the sale of a weapons package that includes 30 Apache attack helicopters, 330 advanced capability Patriot missiles, 32 Harpoon sub-launched missiles, 182 Javelin guided missiles, and four E-2T system upgrades.

Asked about confidence-building measures with China, Ma said it is a rather "difficult and sensitive" issue at the moment, and that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should focus only on economic issues because they are more urgent and more closely related to the livelihood of the people on both sides. As to bilateral relations between Taiwan and the US, Ma said in the future the focus will be less on politics and more on pragmatism.
“Taiwan will work closely with the US on issues such as opening Taiwan's market to US agricultural products, promoting e-commerce, exploring ways to reform Taiwan's investment environment and improving the protection of intellectual property rights,” he explained.

On top of that, the president further said Taiwan would like to conclude an extradition agreement with the US, to participate in America's visa-waiver programme and to sign a free trade agreement with the US. The forum hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), also included panellists such as noted China affairs experts, Bonnie Glaser, Douglas Paal, Alan Romberg, Randy Schriver and Kerry Dumbaugh
Author: DO