March 31, 2001; A2
Bush ponders sale of enhanced arms systems to Taiwan
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Bush will decide in the next several weeks what arms to
Taiwan, a White House official said yesterday.
``There has been no decision on Taiwan arms sales,'' said the
spoke on condition of anonymity.
The decision will be made in the next two weeks, the source told The
``When the decision comes, it will be based on what Taiwan needs to
itself,'' the official said.
Mr. Bush will be getting recommendations for what weapons systems to
the island nation from his national security advisers at the Pentagon, State
Department and National Security Council, the official said.
China's government has been lobbying hard against any new arms sales
Taiwan, claiming the weapons sales would renew the U.S.-Republic of China
defense alliance that was abandoned in the 1970s when diplomatic ties were
At an April 23 meeting between U.S. and Taiwanese officials in
the United States will inform the Taiwanese what weapons on a list of some 30
arms systems have been approved for sale.
The major items on Taipei's request list include four Arleigh
guided-missile destroyers equipped with the high-technology Aegis battle
management systems. The Aegis system can be used for future regional missile
Other requested systems include diesel submarines that would be built
outside the United States and assembled and armed here. The Taiwanese also
want anti-radar missiles and Patriot anti-missile defenses.
Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told a
hearing earlier in the week that one option being considered is to reject
sales of Aegis ships and approve sales of four less-capable Kidd-class
The Kidd-class warships were built in the 1970s and originally were
sold to the government of the shah of Iran. After the shah's government fell,
the ships, known as ``Ayatollah-class'' destroyers, were kept by the Navy
instead of being sold to Iran.
Adm. Blair said in an exchange at a hearing this week with Sen. John
Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, that a ``lower level of missiles on the Chinese side'' would help
reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
``If the Chinese continue to add 50 missiles a year and increase
accuracy, which has been their program in the past, then it doesn't take a
detailed military analysis to tell you that at some point that makes a
military difference and defense is not sufficient,'' Adm. Blair said.
``And it's that ratcheting up that I think does not serve the
either Taiwan or China, but restraint there requires restraint by China,
has not been shown yet, which I have talked to them about, and many other
representatives of our government have talked to them about frequently, and I
would hope we could see.''
Mr. Warner asked the four-star admiral if an ``option before the
is to offer the Kidd-class ships this year ``with the understanding that it
substantially enhances the naval element of deterrence and it would provide a
training base for a follow-on acquisition, if the threat persisted, for the
upgraded Aegis system which would have the theater missile defense
``Exactly correct, sir,'' Adm. Blair said.
Congress, however is not likely to accept the less-capable ships. A
circulating in the House calls for Aegis-ship sales to Taiwan and has scores
Retired Adm. Gorge Meinig, a surface warfare specialist, said the
ships are good, but are a generation behind the Ticonderoga-class cruisers
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with Aegis.
``The current Aegis ships have radar that are the most powerful ones
Adm. Meinig said.
The Aegis ships, if sold to Taiwan, could be improved later with
missiles and software for ``the longest-range engagement'' against Chinese
short-range missiles, he said.
``You cannot do that with an Ayatollah-class ship,'' he said.