Asia-Pacific Security Studies. U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales: The Perils of Doing Business with Friends. Volume 3, Number 3, April 2004
ASIA-PACIFIC CENTER FOR SECURITY STUDIES HONOLULU HI
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Many U.S. observers are disappointed that Taiwans government has moved slowly to purchase the weapons systems the United States began offering in 2001. Taipeis delays have intensified charges that Taiwan is free-riding on defense, relying on the assumption that the United States will deter and, if necessary, militarily repel a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Taiwans explanation for the procurement delays is that the process of funding arms acquisitions takes longer now that Taiwans political system is more democratic and transparent. Some defense analysts in Taiwan also have raised what they insist are legitimate questions about the cost, quality, and suitability of the weapons systems the United States has offered to sell. Taiwans domestic political climate, including the antagonism between the ruling party and the opposition and the divisive issue of Taiwans future relationship with China, has politicized the discussion of the proposed arms sales. Despite a recent economic downturn that has strained the national treasury, Taiwans government plans to allocate an additional budget of more than U.S. 15 billion in 2004 to buy U.S. weapons and will eventually make most of the purchases that U.S. officials have recommended since 2001. The arms sale issue itself will not be the cause of long-lasting or serious damage to the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, but it is one of the several episodes in postwar history that have exposed the mild but persistent undercurrents of mutual suspicion and conflicting interests.
- Government and Political Science