Research examines arms sales to Taiwan


    By Kellie Shirk

    A BYU associate professor recently published an article analyzing U.S. arms sales and technology transfer to Taiwan and


    In April the United States will decide which arms it will sell to Taiwan this year.

    The Chinese are opposed to the yearly sales and to the possible sale of Aegis-equipped destroyers to Taiwan this year.

    However, research published by Eric Hyer, a BYU political science associate professor, and Zhang Qingmin, a professor of Chinese foreign policy at the Foreign Affairs College, affirms that the United States” policy of arms sales and technology transfer has been able to maintain Taiwan”s security without straining United States and China relations to the breaking point.

    The New York Times reported that Taiwan had signaled it would possibly ask the Bush Administration to sell it Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers.

    This request was in response to China”s recent purchase of destroyers from Russia, according to The New York Times.

    China has 300 hundred missiles, a number that is increasing by 50 per years, each with the capacity to hit Taiwan, Hyde said.

    On March 22, President Bush met with the Chinese deputy prime minister, who pressed China”s opposition to the possible sale of destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar system to Taiwan, according to The New York Times.

    Bush indicated that the United States will continue to assist Taiwan, and U.S. officials said China could affect the size of the package by working to reduce tension along the Taiwan Strait.

    “It is simply politically unattainable to sale the radar system to Taiwan,” Hyde said. “China is too against the sale.”

    “Bush shouldn”t sell the Aegis-equipped destroyers this year, but Bush can give Taiwan everything else they want and the Chinese can”t argue.”

    Selling the destroyers this year may actually undermine Taiwan security by possibly causing an arms race between Taiwan and China, Hyde said.

    Hyde believes there will be pressure from both parties to sell the destroyers.

    “There are both Republicans and Democrats pushing arms sales – some because they don”t like China and another group, mainly Republicans, because they are military hawks,” he said.

    Though Bush has been strongly anti-China, Hyde said several of the last presidents, such as Reagan and Clinton, have been anti-China while campaigning, but have become more realistic about Chinese relations once they have reached the Oval Office.

    “U.S. ”Dual Track” Policy: arms and technology transfer to China mainland and Taiwan” published in “Journal of Contemporary China” analyzes the history and current situation of arm sales and technology transfers to China mainland and Taiwan.

    “Clearly we favor Taiwan, but our sales and decisions do not go to the breaking point with China,” Hyde said.

    The conflict between China and Taiwan began in 1949 with the Communist revolution in China, driving the former government to Taiwan, Hyde said.

    Following the Communist revolution, the United States imposed an arms embargo on the new People”s Republic of China, according to Hyde”s journal article.

    President Richard Nixon ended the total embargo in 1971, according to the journal article.

    In 1979, Jimmy Carter recognized the Peoples Republic of China, meaning Taiwan could no longer be recognized as a country, Hyde said.

    Congress, however, passed the Taiwan Relations Act in April of 1979, which made the United States obligated to help Taiwan maintain its defenses.

    President Ronald Reagan attempted to strike a balance by carrying out the Taiwan Relations Act, while strengthening the United States” relationship with China, according the journal article.

    In 1982, Reagan agreed with the Chinese that “arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms the level of those supplied in recent years,” according to the article.

    However, qualitative and quantitative were hard to define. The agreement was nearly impossible to uphold, Hyde said.

    The United States continued to supply arms and technology to Taiwan, as well as defensive arms and technology to China.

    However, following the fall of the Soviet Union and the Tiananmen Square incident, sanctions were imposed on China by President George Bush, according to the article.

    Though restrictions on arms sales are still in place, some of the sanctions on technology transfer have been lifted, according to the article.

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