- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2001

Last Wednesday, the Asian and American press reported that President Bushs foreign policy advisors have recommended against the sale of sophisticated Aegis destroyers to Taiwan. The presidents decision is expected by Tuesday, April 24. We strongly urge President Bush to approve the sale.
Writing from Taiwan, w are concluding the final days in a week-long series of high-level meetings in Taipei. We have met with Taiwans president, vice president, defense minister, legislators and other national leaders. Taiwans legitimate need for U.S. destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar and weapons system is urgent. In fact, these naval-based defense systems top the Taiwanese wish list. The problem lies with China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. Beijing is rattling its saber again, threatening U.S.-China relations will suffer further damage if the sale is made. We say the greater risk is to leave Taiwans democracy unnecessarily vulnerable to aggression of any sort.
Since its repossession of Hong Kong, China has made it clear that Taiwan is next on the menu. If the United States stands by as Beijing has its way with this important democracy, we abandon our credibility in the region. With Taiwan under its belt, China would gain the equivalence of an unsinkable aircraft carrier, as well as a permanent blockade to halt shipments of oil and raw materials destined for our allies, including Japan. Moreover, if China were to gain Taiwans industrial and technological might, along with its wealth, the Chinese would be the greatest economic power in Asia, with the ability to strangle Americas high tech industry. That is why so much is at stake in the sale of these destroyers. Aegis destroyers, with their advanced radar, integrated battle management, and surface-to-air missiles, will provide Taiwan with improved detection and protection against a ballistic missile attack.
Satellite imagery has shown China has massed between 300 to 400 short-range ballistic missiles against Taiwan, and is expanding that cache by 50 or more missiles per year. Aegis destroyers will also strengthen Taiwans air and naval defenses, making the island democracy a force worthy of Chinas respect.
Contrary to the presidents advisors, the U.S. Navy has recommended the sale of Aegis to Taiwan, and the Department of Defense has concluded that the Taiwanese have the ability to operate and integrate the complex system. The truth is, this sale is about more than standing firm in the face of recent Chinese aggression. It is about maintaining balance and security in the Far East. It is about maintaining U.S. credibility with our Asian allies. It is about honoring our promise under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act by which the United States agreed we will sell Taiwan the weapons needed to maintain an adequate self-defense.
But more to the point, a free Taiwan capable of defending itself is clearly in the interests of the United States, as well as our Asian partners. Japan, with its democratic government and the worlds second largest economy, sees Taiwan as critical to its defense. Taiwan also serves as a shield to South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Perhaps the best reason to stand beside Taiwan at this critical juncture and authorize this sale is the fact that it will strengthen the islands vibrant democracy and free-market system. An independent Taiwan bolsters the cause of freedom around the world and provides stability to countries such as Indonesia struggling for their own systems of democracy. The recent Chinese downing of an unarmed U.S. reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace and the detainment of 24 American crewmen remind us that China will seize any opportunity to flex its military muscle.
Make no mistake: Chinas accelerated arms build up is directed against both Taiwan and the United States. Another example is the 1998 military exercise in which the Chinese simulated missile firings against Taiwan and, for the first time, conducted mock attacks on U.S. troops in the region.
For the Bush administration, this is a critical moment of truth. Chinas increasingly aggressive actions argue strongly for a determined U.S. response to restore balance in the Far East, beginning with Taiwan. Put bluntly, the Chinese are a threat to peace and stability throughout Asia. We have had a close relationship with Taiwan for more than 50 years; we must stand beside our friends now, when they need us most. We urge President Bush to support Taiwan in its effort to defend itself by approving the sale of the Aegis system, in addition to other sophisticated defenses, including ballistic missile defenses and submarines.
If we are to avoid escalated conflict with China, America must take this opportunity to show Beijing and the world that we are as committed to the causes of maintaining peace and supporting democracy as we are to increasing trade. Anything less than the approval of the sale of Aegis to Taiwan will jeopardize the strategic balance the United States has committed to maintaining in the region. Worse would be the message of weakness conveyed. Now is not the time to go wobbly.


Reps. Bob Schaffer and Roscoe Bartlett are Republicans from Colorado and Maryland, respectively.

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