Arms deliveries to Taiwan are lagging: US draft study
By Jim Wolf ,ReutersWASHINGTON -- The transfer of U.S. arms to Taiwan, the chief barrier to better U.S.-China ties, is moving at a snail's pace, at least for several major weapons systems, a draft report to the U.S. Congress showed.
November 6, 2011, 12:14 am TWN
The 2011 annual report, under review by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said only four of 60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, for instance, were on order as of mid-October, even though the Obama administration notified lawmakers of their planned sale to Taipei in January 2010.
Moreover, it said Taiwan had “obligated, or committed to, only 9 percent of a projected US$2.5 billion price tag for 30 Apache attack helicopters, a deal that former U.S. President George W. Bush presented to Congress in October 2008.
The lag between the formal notification of a proposed U.S. arms sale, a step required by law, and contracting for and delivery of hardware may raise questions about the possible lack of urgency on the U.S. or Taiwan side, despite what both describe as China's growing military edge over Taiwan.
China deems Taiwan a rogue province subject to unification by force if necessary.
The report shines light on the normally murky matter of an arms sale's status after a statutory 30-day congressional review period. A copy of the draft was obtained by Reuters before the scheduled Nov. 16 delivery of a final version to Congress. The 12-member bipartisan commission was created by Congress in 2000 to study the national security implications of U.S.-China trade.
The draft does not blame either the United States or Taiwan for any failures to act as quickly as possible on requests for U.S. arms, which are meant to deter Beijing. The process is complex, often held up by U.S. efforts to bundle purchases for cheaper prices through economies of scale.
Taiwan's defense budget reached a five-year low of US$9.2 billion for 2011, or about 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, the report said. The United States spends roughly twice that share on its military.
Taiwan signed a government-to-government agreement in 2009 for the Apache helicopters, according to an Oct. 21 update of a report on Taiwan arms sales by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, citing Defense News, a trade publication.
Delivery of those helicopters is not expected to start until at least 2014, the commission's draft said in a footnote, or five years after the framework agreement was signed.
The Black Hawk helicopters are built by United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky unit, and the Apaches by Boeing Co. Both companies referred questions about the status of Taiwan's orders to the U.S. government, which acts as middleman in foreign military sales. The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which carries out the sales, had no comment, nor did the Army Contracting Command, a go-between.