BigNewsNetwork | The U.S. government is to sell $6.4 billion of weapons to Taiwan, the State Department announced on Friday.
State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said Congressional approval was required, but believes this will come quickly. A submission went to Congress on Friday afternoon.
The sales involve a range of U.S.-made weapons systems, including Patriot III anti-missile missiles, Apache attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles, and Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The State Department has sponsored the sale through its appointment earlier this year of former Under-Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz to the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board. Wolfowitz is also Chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, which includes a number of U.S. military contractors as members.
Wood said the deal had been in the works for ‘a few months.’ He said the decision, ‘is consistent with U.S. policy of providing arms for defense of Taiwan and consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.’
‘This arms deal is a key factor in bringing security and stability across the Taiwan Strait,’ he added. The deal also provides Taiwan upgrades for it’s E-2T aircraft, and spare parts for its air force.
The Bush administration appeared keen to get the sales approved prior to the end of the Bush presidency. Many analysts were surprised at the rush, and the lack of debate. The sales are likely to strain relations with China. Wood however said China had been ‘briefed’ on the negotiations.
In an editorial published Saturday the Taipei Times said, ‘The reasons for the reversal are unclear at this time, though pressure had been building on the State Department over the status of the arms for an extensive period – pressure from Taiwan lobbyists in the Congress, from military sources, from Paul Wolfowitz in his capacity as chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council and as a foreign policy hawk and, ironically enough, from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government after years of blocking the deal in opposition.’
‘In recent months it became clearer that moves were under way behind the scenes to get this problem fixed before US President George W. Bush ends his presidency,’ the Taipei Times editorial said. ‘Wolfowitz, for one, was oddly optimistic in a speech in Taipei in July, linking passage of the deal to Bush’s personal honor. Wolfowitz might have known something that most others did not; even think-tank identities with extensive connections in the US political and military spheres had grown awfully pessimistic as time wore on,’ the Taiwanese newspaper editorial said.