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Congressional Research Service, “Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales since 1990,” February 11, 2009
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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. Since then, attention has turned to Taiwan, where the military, civilian officials, and legislators from competing political parties have 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 have questioned Taiwan’s seriousness about its self-defense, level of defense spending, and protection of secrets. The Pentagon has broadened its focus from Taiwan’s arms purchases to its regular defense budget, readiness for self-defense, and critical infrastructure protection. Blocked by the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan (LY), 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. While the LY did not commit to buy subs, in December 2007, it approved $62 million to start the design phase. Taiwan cut its defense budget for 2009.
In 2008, congressional concerns mounted about a suspected “freeze” in President Bush’s notifications to Congress on eight pending arms sales as well as his refusal to accept Taiwan’s request for F-16C/D fighters. On October 3, 2008, Bush finally notified Congress. However, he submitted only six of the eight pending sales for a value of $6.5 billion, or half of the total. The Administration did not submit for congressional review the pending programs for Black Hawk helicopters or the submarine design. Moreover, the sale of PAC-3 missile defense systems was broken up into two parts. The 111th Congress might further reassert the legislated role in determinations of Taiwan’s needs and oversee President Obama’s adherence to the TRA. There could be congressional oversight of any U.S. policy review and clarification of any objective process to consider Taiwan’s requests for weapons.
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