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Monday, March 1, 2010

Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990

Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

This report, updated as warranted, discusses U.S. security assistance to Taiwan, or Republic of China (ROC), including policy issues for Congress and legislation. Congress has oversight of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), P.L. 96-8, which has governed arms sales to Taiwan since 1979, when the United States recognized the People's Republic of China (PRC) instead of the ROC. Two other relevant parts of the "one China" policy are the August 17, 1982, U.S.-PRC Joint Communique and the "Six Assurances" to Taiwan. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been significant. The United States also has expanded military ties with Taiwan after the PRC's missile firings in 1995-1996. However, there is no defense treaty with Taiwan. 

At the U.S.-Taiwan arms sales talks on April 24, 2001, President George W. Bush approved for possible sale diesel-electric submarines, P-3 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft (linked to the submarine sale), four decommissioned U.S. Kidd-class destroyers, and other items. Bush also deferred decisions on Aegis-equipped destroyers and other items, while denying other requests. Afterward, attention turned to Taiwan, where the military, civilian officials, and legislators from competing political parties debated contentious issues about how much to spend on defense and which U.S. weapons systems to acquire, despite the increasing threat (including a missile buildup) from the People's Liberation Army (PLA), as described in the Pentagon's reports to Congress on PRC military power. In February 2003, the Administration pointed Taiwan to three priorities for defense: command and control, missile defense, and ASW. Some in the United States questioned Taiwan's seriousness about its self-defense, level of defense spending, and protection of secrets. The Pentagon broadened its focus from Taiwan's arms purchases to its regular defense budget, readiness for self-defense, and critical infrastructure protection. Blocked by the Kuomintang (KMT) party in the Legislative Yuan (LY) that opposed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)'s president (2000-2008), the Special Budget (not passed) for submarines, P-3C ASW aircraft, and PAC-3 missile defense systems was cut from $18 billion in 2004 to $9 billion (for submarines only) in 2005. In March 2006, Taiwan's defense minister requested a 2006 Supplemental Defense Budget (not passed) in part for submarine procurement, P-3Cs, and PAC-2 upgrades (not new PAC-3 missiles). In June 2007, the LY passed Taiwan's 2007 defense budget with funds for P-3C planes, PAC-2 upgrades, and F-16C/D fighters. In December 2007, the LY approved $62 million to start the sub design phase. After the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou became President in May 2008, Taiwan retained the requests but has cut the defense budgets. 

Attention also turned to U.S. decisions on pending arms sales. In 2008, congressional concerns mounted about a suspected "freeze" in President Bush's notifications to Congress on arms sales. On October 3, 2008, Bush finally notified Congress. However, he submitted six of the eight pending programs (not a "package") for a combined value of $6.5 billion. Despite the concerns in 2008, President Obama continued that process to decide on submissions for congressional review at one time (on January 29, 2010) five programs with a total value of $6.4 billion. Presidents Bush and Obama did not notify the submarine design program (the only one pending from decisions in 2001) and did not accept Taiwan's request for F-16C/D fighters (pending since 2006). Congress might further assert its legislated role in any objective, ongoing determinations of Taiwan's self-defense needs and oversight of President Obama's adherence to the TRA. Legislation in the 111th Congress include: National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010, P.L. 111-84; H.Res. 733 (Gingrey); H.Con.Res. 200 (Andrews); H.R. 4102 (Ros-Lehtinen); and H.Res. 927 (Barton). Moreover, Congress directed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to submit by January 26 an assessment of Taiwan's air defense forces, including its F-16 fighters. 

Date of Report: February 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 66
Order Number: RL30957
Price: $29.95

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