By Steve Bercic
Washington, July 25 (CNA) – A top U.S. expert on cross-Taiwan Strait affairs said Thursday that he expects the Bush administration to begin the process of transferring an array of defensive weapons to Taiwan in the coming weeks.
Alan Romberg, director of the Henry L. Stimson Center’s East Asia program, told CNA that the Bush administration has not put a freeze on weapons sales to Taiwan, as has been widely reported in the local media.
The list of arms in question includes P-3C Orion anti-submarine planes, anti-tank missiles, PAC-3 missiles, Apache helicopters, diesel-powered submarines and sea-launched Harpoon missiles.
Last week, Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, indirectly confirmed reports that the Bush administration had placed a freeze on arms transfers to Taiwan.
However, the U.S. State Department later said that Washington’s stance on arms sales to Taiwan remains unchanged.
Romberg, who once served as deputy spokesman for the State Department, said he believes that the process of transferring the military hardware, except for F-16 C/D fighters, which are “in a different category, ” will begin within the next few weeks, and that speculation concerning a reported freezing of arms sales to appease Beijing is “unfounded.”
On President Ma Ying-jeou, Romberg said that months into the new administration, the Taiwan people’s support for the head of state’s cross-strait policy of mending fences with China remains very strong.
“Although cross-strait tensions have been significantly reduced in recent weeks, there has been no change in the PLA’s capabilities facing Taiwan. So, while there may be no urgency in proceeding with the weapons systems that have been under consideration, I do not see any change in the requirement for them,” Romberg explained.
He added that the “new Taipei administration’s priorities could, in fact, well be one factor in the timing of any U.S. action to proceed with the sales.”
The Henry L. Stimson Center is a non-profit, non-partisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security through rigorous analysis and regional outreach programs.