On Monday, 17 April 2000, the Clinton Administration decided it would delay approval of several major weapon systems requested by Taiwan. These postponed requests include the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis battle management system, diesel submarines, and anti-submarine P-3 Orion aircraft.
Instead, the Administration decided on a "comprehensive study", as well as the sale of an older longe range radar, PAVE PAWS, a medium-range AMRAAM air-to-air missile, and an upgraded version of the Maverick air-to-ground missile.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: While these systems are still significant, the postponement of the Arleigh-Burke/Aegis sale is the wrong signal at the wrong time:
it is obvious to any person willing to see, that China is increasingly threatening Taiwan, in particular by deploying hundreds of missiles along the coast facing Taiwan.
The time for "comprehensive studies" is over. The best response is a firm and principled stance, not the befuddled wishful thinking of the Clinton White House. Mr. Clinton needs to make it excruciatingly clear to the Chinese that ANY move against Taiwan is a move against the United States.
Taiwan is willing to defend itself, but if the United States is not providing it with the means to counter the Chinese threats, then the US itself will have to bear the consequences, and will have to send in more troops, ships and aircraft than it would have otherwise.
The decision to postpone the sale of four Arleigh Burke class destroyers outfitted with Aegis, and to offer Taiwan the PAVE PAWS system instead is peculiar. The Arleigh Burke/AEGIS system is an advanced weapon system that could help Taiwan defend itself against the increasing array of short-range missiles deployed along the Chinese coast facing Taiwan.
According to the US Defense Department's own reports, these missiles now number approximately 200, and are growing at a rate of more than 50 per year, with an expected total of some 650 by the year 2005.
To defend against these missiles, the Arleigh Burke destroyers have a AN/SPY-1 multifunction radar capable of monitoring incoming missiles and aircraft. A Command Decision System (CDS) receives data from the ship's and external sensors and provides command, control and threat assessment. A Weapon Control System directs the ship's weapons against the threats in the vicinity of the ship, while it relays information on incoming threats to other friendly ships and aircraft.
While the ships are not yet outfitted with high altitude missile defense, which are under development in the Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) program, the ships are an essential element for such a missile defense, which could be in place around 2007.
Due to their mobility and advanced defenses, the ships are much less vulnerable than PAVE PAWS (Phased Array Warning System) system, which is basically a large, static building, housing a long-range radar system developed by the United States to detect the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles during the Cold War.
The United States originally erected four of these radar stations, at Beale Air Force Base in California, at El Dorado in Texas, at Cape Cod Air Station in Massachusetts, and at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Only the two stations at Cape Cod and Beale are still operational. The other two were closed down in 1995.
The problem with the PAVE PAWS system is thus that they are stationary, are based on outdated technology, and were designed for long-range detection, and not the short-range missiles that Taiwan is faced with. In addition, the system is not designed to be connected to a battle command system, and would thus be of little help in defending Taiwan against the incoming missiles from China.
The Clinton Administration's decisions prompted sharp protests from Congress on both the decision itself as well as the procedure. Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) and others criticized the Administration for its failure to consult adequately with Congress, and to give in to pressure from Beijing on this issue.
According to the Taiwan Relations Act, Sec. 3(a), the President and Congress shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services [to be sold to Taiwan] based solely upon their judgement of the needs of Taiwan (emphasis added).
Senator Hutchinson stated: "Unfortunately, the Administration has followed a two-pronged approach in determining US arms sales to Taiwan -- rewarding threats from Beijing and keeping Congress out of the process -- both in violation of the Taiwan Relations Act."
Mr. Hutchinson added: "Congress has already been kept in the dark for too long. This Administration should expect Congress to reassert itself in the arms sales process by passing the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act or other legislation, to restore the intent of the Taiwan Relations Act."
Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the package, saying that it sacrificed Taiwan's security in order to appease the dicators in Beijing. He also ridiculed one provision of the package, that AMRAAM air-to-air missiles would be sold to Taiwan, but that they would be stored on US territory, and only be transferred in case of emergency. "What is Taiwan supposed to do", Mr. Helms thundered, "call FEDEX for its AMRAAMs after China attacks?"
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