Asia - Pacific

Arms deals to fortify Taiwan's defense capacity

Agreements with US under ‘Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework’ to prevent Chinese use of force on Taiwan, says expert

Riyaz Ul Khaliq   | 01.05.2021
Arms deals to fortify Taiwan's defense capacity File Photo

ANKARA

Defense deals by Taiwan worth $18 billion with the former US administration of Donald Trump are certain “to fortify Taiwan's national defense capacity", an expert noted on Friday.

Boosting defense capacity by the island nation “under the US Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework is mainly to counter-balance and prevent the Chinese use of force on Taiwan,” said Taiwanese academic Chien-Yu Shih.

Chien was referring to the Taiwan-US deal to inspect Patriot III missiles at an undisclosed American military base for $589.64 million.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the missiles will be tested in eight batches from 2023 to 2030, with 48 items per batch in seven to eight months.

“For the [Joe] Biden administration, it seems there is an obvious continuity from Trump's Indo-Pacific strategy, but Biden is keeping a soft, or non-provocative tune to China this time,” according to the Taiwanese academic, who taught international relations in Hong Kong.

Increased interaction between the US and Taiwan, which China considers its “breakaway province,” has angered Beijing which has time and again demanded that Washington abandon the process and abide by “One China, One Policy.”

High-level delegations from the US have landed in Taipei with a focus on economic and defense relations.

“The Biden's administration on the one hand has attempted to enrich the Indo-Pacific strategy with more non-conventional elements, such as in COVID-19 vaccine cooperation, free trade, and issues in climate change,” Chien told Anadolu Agency. “On the other hand, Biden government will carry on to improve Taiwan's military and defense capability in many ways, which the sale on the Patriot III is simply another illustration.”

The MND has also confirmed that it has purchased Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) systems and expects to complete delivery between 2025 and 2026.

“The Biden administration wants to reassure the US firmness to safeguard Taiwan's safety from China's possible offensive move,” noted the academic.

Amid intense air activity above the Taiwan Strait where Taipei complains that Chinese fighter jets are coming closer every other day, the island nation’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Thursday that Taiwan will “defend itself to the very end.”

'Political processes to reduce tensions'

Associate senior fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Jingdong Yuan told Anadolu Agency that advancing peace and reducing tensions "can only be achieved through political/diplomatic processes rather than military deployment."

"But it demonstrates Taiwan's resolve to defend itself to the extent that some of its critical infrastructure and military installations can be protected to allow Taiwan to engage in counter-attacks [both fighter aircraft and land-based missiles], and to buy time hoping that the US may intervene," he said.

In this sense, he added, Taiwan's PAC-3 purchase would "potentially result in the mainland's efforts in developing and deploying missile systems that can either overwhelm or defeat these missile defenses. Taiwan clearly is not in a position to engage this kind of arms race."

The SIPRI scholar said the Patriot missile sale "demonstrates US willingness to sell more, and more advanced defense systems to Taiwan, notwithstanding its joint agreement with the Mainland, the so-called August 17, 1982, Joint Communique pledging a limitation on both the quantity and quality of weapons it would sell to Taiwan."

"This is the most important consequence, one that must be contextualized in the earlier, and more frequent sales since the Trump administration, and continued with the Biden presidency," he said.

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