- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

In the wake of the Chinese militarys belligerent interference with an American reconnaissance plane operating over international waters and the subsequent diplomatic crisis with China, President George W. Bush had to make a decision as to what defensive weapons he wanted to sell to Taiwan. That decision came down yesterday afternoon and it was the wrong one.
Citing a source close to a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Tony Blankley, a columnist for The Washington Times, reported March 28 that President Bush had decided to deny Taiwans request to purchase several Aegis-class guided-missile destroyers. Four days later, Chinas military escalated its aggression against U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, requiring an American plane, badly disabled in a collision caused by a reckless Chinese pilot, to land at a Chinese military airport on an offshore island. Here the 24 crew members became de facto hostages for nearly two weeks.
Administration officials have been insisting that the diplomatic crisis would not affect the decision regarding what defensive arms could be sold to Taiwan. One might look at this two ways. If Mr. Bush had decided to sell Taiwan the advanced defensive systems, including the Aegis, which it clearly needs to counter Communist Chinas aggressive military buildup, that would have been appropriate, because the policy would have been correct in the first place. But if the administration had decided to deny the Aegis to Taiwan then Mr. Bush should have taken advantage of Chinas indefensible behavior and used those incidents to meet Americas obligations, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, to help Taiwan defend itself.
Indeed there was another important reason to sell Taiwan the Aegis system, which, its worth noting, could not be delivered for at least another eight years. Ultimately, Aegis could be upgraded to fulfill Mr. Bushs grand vision of national and regional missile defense systems to protect America, its overseas troops and its allies. To complement the Aegis system, Taiwan had asked to receive the U.S. Armys PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile system, which is currently under development and which Bush advisers have reportedly recommended against selling to Taiwan. Meanwhile, the administration approved as a stopgap measure the sale of four less-sophisticated Kidd-class destroyers, which could be delivered within two years. That was the recommendation in a study of Taiwans needs by U.S. naval officers, who also argued on behalf of supplying Taiwan with diesel submarines, which the president did approve.
Taiwan is an island of 23 million people who have, over the past several decades, collectively produced both a thriving democracy and a world-class industrial economy. Taiwan, of course, poses no military threat to any of its neighbors, especially the 1.3 billion inhabitants of the Peoples Republic of China, who, unfortunately, continue to be ruled by the ruthless dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party. Only the United States can prevent the Taiwanese from falling victim to the same fate. The least we could do is sell Taiwan the weapons necessary for it to defend its hard-won democratic and economic victories. Instead, the administration opted for half-measures.

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