Taiwanese paratrooper in training in Zuoying,
Feb. 6. Taiwan's Defense Ministry has announced large-scale
exercises in the coming weeks.
China Post, Taiwan
What are the
Americans Actually Selling Taiwan?'
the U.S. is selling is a sense of security. And Taiwan is happily buying it
despite the exorbitant price. But that sense of security doesn't come from military
hardware, but rather the implications attached to the weapons."
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou: In what may be the hardest job in the democratic world, he must
accept American military aid to deter an invasion by the mainland, while
protecting the interests of 23 million Taiwanese, many of whom do business in authoritarian China.
Washington and Beijing have locked
horns over the latest U.S. weapons sale to Taiwan, as well as some other thorny
issues, including President Obama's planned meeting with Tibet's exiled
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. It remains to be seen what will become of
relations between the two superpowers - and theirs with Taiwan.
But a question needs to be
asked about the weapons sales: What is the U.S. really selling Taiwan? Or in
other words, what does Taiwan think the U.S. government is selling?
The Obama Administration
hasn't actually approved anything new. Some of the weapon systems were already
promised by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, and others are part of other ongoing
But the new package excludes
some of the things Bush promised: diesel-powered submarines and F16C/D jet
That's the hardware side. On
the political side, the package represents a reiteration by Washington of the Taiwan Relations Act,
which obliges the U.S. to sell defensive weapons to the island.
Taiwan has few enemies to
defend itself from; perhaps just one. But that happens to be a superpower that
claims sovereignty over the island, and constantly threatens to invade should
it declare formal independence.
The hardware that America is
selling Taiwan isn't sufficient to defend against the hundreds of Chinese
missiles that target Taiwan. What the United States is selling Taiwan is a
sense of security. And Taiwan is happily buying it, despite the exorbitant
President Ma Ying-jeou's comment on the latest weapons sale is that Taiwan
will feel "more secure and confident" when handling cross-strait
relations. But that sense of security doesn't come from hardware, but rather
the implications attached to the weapons.
In fact, the president may
not really want to buy these weapons, now that Taiwan seems to need them least,
judging from the gradually easing tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
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