- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2000

The Pentagon wants to make the first new advanced weapons sales to Taiwan in several years, a deal that includes four Aegis warships that can be equipped with anti-missile defenses, according to Clinton administration officials.
Taiwan's military asked to buy the Aegis destroyers and at least six other high-technology weapons systems late last year as part of its annual request for defensive weapons. The ships are equipped with the Aegis high-technology battle management radar and tracking system that is the heart of the U.S. Navy's developing sea-based missile defense system.
A final decision by the administration on the ships and other advanced arms to be transferred to Taiwan is not expected until April.
However, the issue has touched off sharp debate within the administration over U.S. obligations to provide for Taiwan's defensive needs.
The Pentagon's Joint Staff and the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii are in favor of selling the advanced weapons, arguing that the arms are needed to counter China's growing military power, the officials said.
The State Department and White House National Security Council staff are opposing the sales because of their expected impact on U.S. ties to Beijing, which have been slowly improving since NATO's accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, last year.
"This is the equivalent of a battle royal," said one U.S. government official close to the issue.
Pentagon officials said the destroyers for sale would not be equipped with anti-missile interceptors. They will carry the Navy's Standard air-defense missiles.
The ships, however, could be upgraded later for the Navy theaterwide missile-defense systems.
Currently, Japan is the only other Asian nation with Aegis ships. Tokyo is considering adding missile defenses to the vessels.
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon declined to comment on the Taiwan arms sales, citing a policy of not discussing the issue publicly.
The issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan came up during a meeting Jan. 13 in Beijing between Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi, who urged that no arms be sold to Taiwan.
"Yang Jeichi reiterated the importance and sensitiveness of the Taiwan question in China-U.S. relations and indicated that whether the United States could properly handle the Taiwan question was of paramount importance to the stability and improvement of China-U.S. relations this year," the Chinese government said in a statement.
China's top general in charge of foreign affairs, Gen. Xiong Guangkai, is expected to issue a further protest in talks next week at the Pentagon. It will be the first military contacts here with the People's Liberation Army since the embassy bombing.
Taiwan's requests for advanced weapons have been turned down by the administration for the past several years. One official said the policy is a "de facto moratorium" on weapons sales to the island.
Pentagon officials said the failure to provide what they regard as defensive arms is the result of the administration's pro-Beijing policies.
State Department spokesmen have said no decisions have been made about supplying missile defenses to Taiwan, but the senior admiral in charge of the U.S. Pacific Command supports the idea.
While the administration has denied Taiwanese arms requests, China is rapidly building up its military forces opposite Taiwan. The Defense Intelligence Agency last month identified two new short-range missile bases in southern China where several hundred M-11 missiles will be deployed and targeted against Taiwan.
China opposes all new arms sales to the island it regards as a breakaway province, and warned last week that the administration's approach to the Taiwan issue will dictate whether U.S.-China relations improve this year.
Other weapons being sought by Taiwan include high-speed anti-radar missiles and advanced air-to-air missiles for warplanes, and two early warning radar systems that can be used for both missile defense and aircraft tracking that reportedly were approved for sale last year but never sold, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Taiwanese also are seeking P-3 anti-submarine aircraft and small submarines.
The anti-radar missiles and Aegis ships could provide protection against China's new Russian-made Sovremenny destroyers. The first ship is on its way to Shanghai and will be equipped with SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles later this year.
The Aegis ship sale was disclosed earlier this month. Taiwanese National Security Council official Chun Pichao said in a speech that the U.S. government had approved the sale of four Aegis destroyers. Other press reports in Taipei have said President Clinton plans to approve large-scale advanced weapons purchases this year.
Mr. Chen described the four ships as Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers that would be equipped with the Navy's new theater missile defense system. He also said Washington agreed to sell AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missiles for Taiwan's U.S.-made F-16 jets.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman in Beijing issued a statement Jan. 6 saying, "We express serious concern over the report" of new U.S. arms sales.
The spokesman said the United States is obligated under a 1982 communique to "putting an immediate end to sales of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan."
Past U.S. arms sales to Taiwan were limited to the least-capable versions of weapons, including 150 F-16 jets, E-2T early warning aircraft, older Nike, Hawk and Chaparral air defense systems and a version of the Patriot air defense missile.
The Taiwanese also have U.S. frigates for anti-submarine warfare and older helicopters and M-60 tanks, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The only recent major defense system sold to Taipei was a mobile tactical communications system.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act states that the United States is obligated to provide Taiwan with defensive arms and calls for helping the Taipei government "maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."
The U.S. and Taiwan militaries, however, do not conduct military exercises together. A senior military official said the lack of exercises would make a U.S. defense of Taiwan very difficult.
Adm. Dennis Blair, the commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command said in a recent interview that the United States has the right to sell missile defenses to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act because of the growing military imbalance created by China's short-range missile buildup.
Those favoring new arms sales are worried about the growing military imbalance between China and Taiwan and also are concerned that China will carry out a military attack.
Officials within the administration opposing new arms sales to Taiwan want to limit U.S. defense support to logistics, maintenance and training, what they term "software."
Congress largely has been excluded from the debate even though the Taiwan Relations Act governing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan gives the Congress a major role in deciding what weapons to provide the island.
Congressional aides said the administration has refused to consult either the House or Senate on the matter.
That could change under a bill before the House called the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act which would give lawmakers greater influence over the types and quantities of weapons sold to Taiwan.
Asked on Jan. 6 if the president plans to increase arms sales to Taiwan, White House National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger said the "normal process" of providing Taiwan "defensive equipment that they may need" is under way.

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