U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is moving toward possible new arms sales to Taiwan, including design work on diesel-electric submarines, Robert Kovac, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for defense trade, told Reuters in Washington on Wednesday.
New submarines could help challenge any Chinese seaborne assault on the island, which Beijing reserves the right to take by force if it formally declares independence.
I've long been a proponent of the value of submarines in Taiwanese hands, despite the high price.
As for cost effectiveness, let me just add that as long as a single Taiwanese sub equipped with American-made Harpoons is at sea (or believed to be at sea), the United States will be able to maintain plausible deniability that American subs are not actually shooting at the invasion flotilla (we in the blogosphere can then marvel at the capabilities of the lone intrepid Taiwanese captain wreaking havoc on the PLAN surface fleet).
It will take a long time to get the subs even if this design work goes forward. This should have been done at the beginning of the Bush administration. But better to start late than not at all. We just don't know what might trigger a PLA invasion and other factors may deter China until the subs are put into service.
UPDATE: Amazingly, this analyst believes it would be good for Taiwan to stay more defenseless:
The gains of this arms deal for Taiwan, however, are minimal. China has near 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, around 70 submarines, and another 70 combat ships. The Chinese navy could overwhelm Taiwanese defenses. Yet Taiwan's deterrent against Chinese invasion has always been, and will remain, the economic disincentive for the PRC to invade as well as a strong American military presence in the Asian Pacific. The handful of missiles, helicopters and submarines included in this arms package will not change that.
Amazing. I mean beyond his argument that Taiwan should value economic growth at the expense of defending themselves--a policy designed to provide China with a much more wealthy conquest, basically.
More basically, this analysis ignores military reality. One, if China really was so overwhelmingly powerful, why would China care if Taiwan buys weapons as useless as the analyst claims they are? Two, if China-Taiwan relations are improving to the point that war is unthinkable, why should China care if Taiwan is harder to capture?
Most importanly, Taiwan can defend itself if it has the weaponry and will to resist. Taiwan's navy is actually better than the Chinese navy--as long as the Taiwanese can get it to sea without a Chinese attack sinking it at pier-side. And missile defenses can blunt China's missile arsenal to some extent. If Taiwan can then make sure their air force is up to par, China will have great uncertainty about both the outcome and cost of an invasion.
And even if Taiwan can't build up a military sufficient to defeat the Chinese on their own, the ability of Taiwan just to slow down the Chinese juggernaut long enough for America (and possibly Japan) to invervene will be key to keeping China from attempting an invasion.
Good grief, nuance and theories of the value of robust vulnerability won't help Taiwan stay free and prosperous. This isn't a matter of just waiting a year to get the arms. This deal has waited nearly a decade already and could be too late to restore a balance in the Taiwan Strait. Every month of further delay could be fatal for Taiwan.
Arm up, Taiwan. And hope that China gets military advice as daft as this piece of dross masquerading as deep thinking.