Speaking of defense, here is Taiwan’s official response to Ted Galen Carpenter’s appalling outburst of rhetoric last week on the arms purchase. This is as it appeared, edited, in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week:

+++++++++++

Three Myths About Taiwan’s Defense

In regard to Ted Galen Carpenter’s oped (“Taiwan’s Free Ride on U.S. Defense,” April 23): Mr. Carpenter perhaps unwittingly bought into three regrettable myths about my country’s defense situation.

The first is that Taiwan’s investment in its own defenses continues to shrink as China’s rises. While Taiwan’s own defense spending has indeed been outstripped by that of China’s own destabilizing double-digit growth in defense spending, Taiwan’s own military budget will actually grow from 2.2 % of GDP last year to a proposed 2.85 % this year and to 3.0 % in 2008. Furthermore, a November 2006 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service found that from 1998 to 2005, Taiwan received $13.9 billion in arms deliveries from various sources, making it the third largest such recipient among developing countries.

It should also be noted that much of Taiwan’s defense budget has been spent on expensive military software that often costs even more than the missile hardware it purchases. One example of this trend is its 2004 purchase of Ultra High Frequency Long Range Early Warning Radars at the rather “un-free” cost of over $1.7 billion.

The second myth is that Taiwan seems intent on starting a shooting war with China through provocative policies. While many commentators seem content to repeat Beijing’s talking points about the “recklessness” of Taiwan’s government’s struggle to protect national sovereignty, few of them seem to have noted Taiwan’s genuine attempts to reach out to its cross-strait neighbor. These initiatives have included a suggested demilitarized zone along the middle of the Taiwan Strait, confidence building measures between both sides’ militaries to avoid miscalculation, and direct charter flights between the two sides. Despite being targeted by over 900 Chinese missiles, Taiwan has even recently begun to welcome large numbers of Chinese tourists to help build trust between our two peoples.

The third myth is that the implied assumption that the arms package currently stalled in the legislature would have been passed by now if Taiwan were still an authoritarian party-state. But long gone are the days when an authoritarian government in Taipei could pass laws by executive fiat regardless of political opposition. While the current stand-off over the arms bill is regrettable, it remains a testimony to Taiwan’s commitment to democracy that its government remains determined to pass the package according to constitutional law.

Make no mistake: Taiwan is a sovereign country fully committed to upholding both its defenses and democratic ideals. The stability and security that America brings to the region in the form of the sale of defensive armaments to its allies and its steadfast support for freedom sends a message to not only those in Beijing who would forcefully annex Taiwan, but to others who question America’s resolve to stand up for democracy overseas. Suggesting that it may be better to abandon Taiwan’s 23 million to the tender mercies of Beijing serves only to dilute this message and increases the chances of miscalculation.

Eddy Tsai
Director, Press Division
Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office
Washington, DC

++++++++

The letter also received some play in the local press, as the Taipei Times report on it. Apparently Carpenter’s ill-informed remarks drew more than a little local ire. Well-deserved, I’d say.