Last Friday’s event at The Heritage Foundation, “Shoring Up the U.S.–Taiwan Partnership,” featured a statement by Senator John Cornyn (R–TX) advocating “the urgent need to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities.”
Senator Cornyn has been pushing the Obama Administration to sell 66 F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan to help the U.S. ally defend itself in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. At the same time, Cornyn implored “aggressive and consistent advocacy by Taiwan for its own interests.”
Although I am not able to be with you today in person, I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts on the importance of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and the urgent need to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities. I remain a strong believer in the U.S.-Taiwan strategic partnership, and most of my Senate colleagues are of like mind.
The foundation of this relationship continues to be the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA]. The TRA obligates our President and our Congress to, among other things, provide Taiwan with the weapons necessary to enable it to defend itself against the threat from Communist China. This is why I have pushed the Obama Administration to approve the sale of new F-16 C/D aircraft to Taiwan, which Taiwan first asked to purchase around 2006.
In the face of China’s aggressive military modernization and belligerent attitude towards Taiwan, these F-16 fighters have become increasingly important and also highly symbolic for Taiwan. China poses a direct and growing threat to our longstanding ally, which remains squarely in the crosshairs. I concluded long ago that the Obama Administration’s refusal to approve this F-16 sale is due to objections from mainland China. The PRC [People’s Republic of China] must not be allowed to dictate U.S. policy in this increasingly important part of the world.
At the same time, I have been disappointed that Taiwan seems to have backed off of its pursuit for new F-16s, especially after so many of its friends in Congress went out on a limb to help them. When it comes to Taiwan’s military capabilities, there seems to be a puzzling sense of complacency in Taipei. Taiwan needs to wake up and realize that, as the threat from China grows, so grows Taiwan’s vulnerability. Without aggressive and consistent advocacy by Taiwan for its own interests, it will be nearly impossible for its friends in Congress to push through the sale of F-16s or other advanced weapons.
Taipei must find the political will to increase Taiwan’s defense budget—which was cut each year from 2009 through 2011. Taiwan’s leaders also need to stop allowing themselves to be bullied by the Obama Administration, and instead focus their efforts on making the case for their defensive needs and articulating those needs to Congress, where they have many friends who see Taiwan’s security interests as intertwined with America’s.
At the start of this new Congress, Taiwan and its strongest supporters must recommit ourselves to strengthening the ties that bind our two nations together—from a shared commitment to democracy, to a common interest in promoting peace and stability in the region.