- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will take his biggest step into the international spotlight on Feb. 14 when he meets with President Obama. The two leaders will discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues at the Valentine’s Day meeting.

Washington has been putting pressure on China over the value of the Chinese currency, and observers expect Mr. Obama to reiterate the call for Beijing to allow the yuan to appreciate. China, on the other hand, has voiced concern over the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region as well as displeasure over arms sales to Taiwan.

When the Obama administration announced the new defense strategy last month, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta made clear that the United States would renew its commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific region. Under the new strategy, the United States will shift military and financial resources away from Europe and toward the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. The new strategic partnership with the Asia-Pacific region includes the willingness to sell U.S. fighter aircraft to every allied nation in the region, with one glaring exception: Taiwan. This is a serious mistake.

The government in Taipei has been waiting since 2006 for the green light to purchase F-16 C/Ds. Taiwan desperately needs new fighters, and the proposed arms deals reflected public opinion in both Taiwan and the United States. Without new fighter jets and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, all of which pose significant national-security implications for the United States.

Although the United States would not raise the issue of Taiwan during Mr. Xi’s visit, the Chinese side is almost certain to do so. What concessions could Mr. Obama make? What could Mr. Xi take back home? The relationship between the United States and China is very complicated and requires that Mr. Obama apply his own political wisdom for the sake of balance. There is no need for him to make concessions to Mr. Xi.

The United States must take action to substantiate its claim that it honors the Taiwan Relations Act and promptly fulfill its legal obligations to Taiwan. The United States must stand with Taiwan to ensure that the latter can defend itself and that its self-defense capabilities are never eroded. A strong Taiwan, confident in its relationship with the United States, is key to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region - and is of profound importance to the new U.S. defense strategy.

KENT WANG

Former president

Taiwan Benevolent Association of America

Potomac Falls, Va.