Monday, July 21, 2008

What Diminished Threat?

Boy are we sending mixed messages:

The U.S. has turned down a Taiwan attempt to buy 66 late model F-16 fighters. These would have cost about $75 million each. The deal was strongly opposed by China, and the U.S. justified its refusal to sell the jets by pointing out that a newly elected, more pro-China government, in Taiwan, diminished the threat of a Chinese invasion. It's also possible that the U.S. is rewarding China for help in negotiations with North Korea over the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Then again, whoever really knows, isn't talking.

So we are telling Taiwan that if they "increase tensions" by hinting at independence we will sell arms to them? But if Taiwan makes nice with Peking, we won't sell arms because lower tensions mean less likelihood of war?

Even though China seems to be no less intent on conquering Taiwan despite their charm offensive?

In the short run, this arms refusal doesn't matter. No new arms purchases can have any effect on a near-term conflict. It takes too long to integrate them into Taiwanese forces. (Now maybe if we'd sold them all this stuff back in 2001 ... But then Ma's KMT was blocking arms sales.) Maybe we are really thinking about all the angles and just want to get Taiwan through a danger period until we are better able to fend off China.

Or maybe we're just making a mistake thinking that we can trade away degrees of safety for a democratic ally on Taiwan for the hope of progress on North Korea's nuclear programs.

Of course, the only ones talking are those like me who really don't know what is going on.