The Washington insider Nelson Report doesn’t often have remark on Taiwan, and yet here are two in a row that have stuff on Taiwan. This one comments on Wolfowitz’s remarks the other day. Pay attention to that first sentence — does it herald change?:


TAIWAN ARMS…we can confirm that the Administration is in deep consultation over whether to approve an $11-billion arms package for Taiwan, and if so, when.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, now president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, predicted in Taipei yesterday that President Bush is “close” to deciding to release what PACOM Adm. Tim Keating perhaps inadvertently last week seemed to indicate was a freeze, due to larger US-China relations and issues.

You can suspect that Wolfowitz was doing his job, and special pleading, and/or you can suspect that given his connections, he may know something the rest of us don’t.

Our guess is he was promoting, not reporting, and that while there are those who argue Bush will announce the deal, then hope to “make up for it” with his Beijing Olympics’ visit with China’s Hu Jintao…that strikes us as are being a little too clever, as per the observations of a directly concerned Loyal Reader who supports the package:

“I think Hu is so concerned about domestic unrest and possible demos that any sign from Bush of bending Taipei’s way would be more than Hu could handle.

Many, including me, think Hu is under pressure to show that his policy of ‘no unification now’ toward Taipei is a good policy. Ma’s mantra ‘no unification, no independence, no arms race’ doesn’t sit very well in Beijing. Even more so was Ma’s statement that he didn’t foresee unification ‘in his lifetime.

This has Beijing nervous about giving any leeway to Taiwan for fear that the DPP might return, and that the DPP would pocket all concessions from China, and ask for more.

I worry, by the way, in all this arms ‘delay’ and optimism over the dialogue that is underway between Taipei and Beijing, that any signs of a DPP resurrection would make Beijing very belligerent.

That would risk the US being caught in a trap somewhat of its own making, ‘ troublemaker DPP/peacemaker KMT’ - so you can’t have that DPP be re-elected to power.’

But, as noted at the top, anyone who says they know the outcome of the Administration debate is exaggerating, we suspect. As we await a decision (and not making any announcement may BE the decision) here are some useful considerations we hear from other concerned observers, about points raised in recent Nelson Reports:

“I agree that the Bush Administration is not breaching the TRA. We are in a set of circumstances that the authors of the TRA did not contemplate. If the authors had been in this situation, they probably would be doing the same thing that the Administration is doing now. It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, but not as dire as some people are painting it.”[MT: this Loyal Reader is wrong. The situation that the "authors of the TRA did not contemplate" -- the KMT-CCP lovefest -- is not the cause of the arms freeze. The arms freeze predates the current situation. The Bush Administration is full of it on this one. Whether the Bush administration is breaching the Taiwan Relations Act is a matter of one's values, but I don't think it is. It may be in violation of the spirit of the TRA, but the letter of the TRA clearly gives the President the right to do what he wants. Stupid to hand the executive so much power.]

Finally, a security concern you almost never hear “in public”, from a directly involved Loyal Reader:

“It is curious that all the comments about accommodating China, Taiwanese politics, obligations under the TRA, etc. hardly mention one of the most important constraints on any arms transfers to Taiwan — compromise of advanced systems/technologies. Leakage to China from Taiwan of US defense data is already evident.

The KMT’s return brings us back to a long-standing assumption about Taiwan’s eventual fate — accommodation with China involving some trade-off of sovereignty for autonomy. If you acknowledge that (whether or not you like it), you must also recognize that US military systems transferred to Taiwan will in effect become transfers to China…something that would surely give pause to any US administrations considering arms sales to Taiwan.

This should not mean the end of US arms support for Taiwan, but it will certainly impact what gets transferred. Mature equipment like the F-16s and utility helicopters could and should be released. Speculation on Aegis systems should stop.

The submarine project — misconceived from the beginning and all but unimplementable in reality — should be shelved. Some systems, like PAC-3, will be challenging re. legitimate Taiwan defense needs vs. tech security.

These are the sort of issues on which policy makers and responsible Congressional attention must focus — an approach to Taiwan’s security that finds a sensible middle ground between the extreme swings that have characterized current administration actions.”[MT: Actually, we hear this security concern all the time, most recently in the Manthorpe piece a few posts below.]