Taiwan urges US to sell island advanced weapons

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry urged the U.S. on Tuesday to sell the island advanced weapons systems, after a Pentagon report concluded that China’s arms buildup is giving it a wider military advantage over Taiwan.

The comments by Defense Ministry spokesman Yu Sy-tue were an unwelcome reminder to the Obama administration of its obligation to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself against a possible Chinese attack.

The mainland and the island split amid civil war in 1949. China has threatened to invade across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait if the island moves to make its de facto independence permanent.

Washington has long been caught between its desire to cultivate better relations with Beijing, and its knowledge that selling Taiwan weapons incenses the Chinese leadership, which continues to see the island as part of its territory. U.S. law requires Washington to help Taiwan defend itself against possible Chinese invasion.

Earlier this year China suspended defense exchanges with Washington after the U.S. announced it would make available to Taiwan a $6.4 billion weapons package.

In his comments to The Associated Press, Yu called on the United States to sell Taiwan F-16 C/D fighter jets and diesel submarines, two systems which have been at the top of its military wish list for most of this decade.

He also acknowledged that despite Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s monthslong efforts to improve mainland ties, “China has never given up the possibility to use force against Taiwan.”

Since Ma took office in May 2008, he has moved to forge better China ties to reduce cross-strait tensions and bolster bilateral trade. Ma has also repeatedly urged China to remove some 1,300 missiles it points at Taiwan, though to no avail.

The Pentagon said in its Monday report while the Chinese military is working on overpowering its Taiwanese counterpart, it is also developing capabilities to prevent the U.S. from coming to the island’s rescue in case of cross-strait conflicts.

Associated Press