By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick | WASHINGTON Fri Mar 17, 2017 | 3:58pm EDT
The Trump administration is crafting a big new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to defend against China, U.S. officials said, a deal sure to anger Beijing.
The package is expected to be significantly larger than one that was shelved at the end of the Obama administration, the officials told Reuters on the eve of a visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“The political desire is there to do a substantial sale,” one administration official said, adding that internal deliberations had begun on a deal “that’s much stronger, much more significant than the one that was not accepted by the Obama people.”
President Donald Trump’s administration is eager to proceed with the sales, but it is expected to take months and possibly into next year for the White House to overcome obstacles, including concern that Beijing’s sensitivities over Taiwan could make it harder to secure cooperation on priorities such as reining in North Korea, the official said.
Completion of a package also could be held up by the slow pace at which the Trump administration is filling national security jobs, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because initial work toward new arms sales has not been made public.
Discussions between Taiwan and the new administration already have begun, according to a person in Taipei familiar with the matter.
The White House declined comment.
Details of the administration’s approach to Taiwan emerged as Tillerson was due to visit China this weekend, where he will seek more Chinese support on North Korea and firm up a first meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping expected next month.
In December, President Barack Obama’s administration put the brakes on a Taiwan deal under discussion. That package was worth $1 billion, Washington’s Free Beacon newspaper reported this week, citing unnamed officials, who also were quoted as saying the Trump administration was now preparing new sales.
Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman under Obama, said the previous administration put a “relatively modest” arms package for Taiwan on hold, in part to let the new administration make the decision.
The Trump administration source told Reuters that the new deals under consideration would likely top the $1 billion mark.
The new administration plans to focus more than the previous one on enhancing Taiwan’s “asymmetric” capabilities, possibly with advanced multiple launch rocket systems, anti-ship missiles and other technologies that would enable Taiwan’s military to defend against a much larger Chinese force in the event of an attack, the U.S. official said.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) is the top U.S. manufacturer of multiple launch rocket systems. Other foreign companies involved in the sector include Germany’s Diehl and Britain’s BAE Systems (BAES.L).
A $1.83 billion arms sale to Taiwan that Obama announced in December 2015, to China’s dismay, included two Navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.” But successive administrations have continued providing billions of dollars in arms as part of a congressionally mandated requirement to ensure the island can defend itself.
Taiwan has already been a major point of contention between Trump and China, which considers the island a renegade province.
As president-elect, Trump broke with protocol and accepted a congratulatory phone call from the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in December, angering China. He then suggested he might abandon Washington’s “one China” policy, which accepts the self-ruled island as part of China. Once in office, Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the decades-old policy.
The White House is mindful that tensions could flare again over new arms sales. But some Trump aides insist they are needed to make clear that the United States, Taiwan’s sole arms supplier, is committed to upgrading the island’s defenses.
(Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in Taipei and John Walcott in Washington; Editing by John Walcott and Tom Brown)
Source: Reuters “Trump administration crafting big new arms sales to Taiwan: sources”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Trump set to sell more arms
By Bill Gertz
March 14, 2017 5:00 am
The Obama administration blocked a $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan in December that was needed to improve the island’s defenses despite approval from the State Department and Pentagon, according to Trump administration officials.
The scuttling of the arms package was a set back for U.S. and Taiwanese efforts to bolster defenses against a growing array of Chinese missiles and other advanced weaponry deployed across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait.
The action coincided with a controversial pre-inaugural phone call Dec. 2 between then-President-elect Trump and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
It could not be learned if the arms package, which was ready to be announced publicly in December was derailed by the Obama administration because of the phone call.
The new Trump administration is now preparing to provide more and better defensive arms to Taiwan, said administration officials familiar with internal discussions of the arms sale.
The new arms package, however, is not expected to be made public until after Trump meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month. White House officials said the meeting is set for early April at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also will visit China later this month.
Taiwan is expected to be a major topic of discussion for both the summit and Tillerson’s visit.
“There’s a process for these things that’s being followed,” a White House official said of the arms package. “The Trump administration takes America’s commitment to Taiwan’s security very seriously.”
Other officials said the arms package was set for release to Taiwan and formal notification to Congress in December. But National Security Council staff officials blocked it, setting back the process of supporting Taiwan with defensive arms considerably.
The approximately $1 billion included parts and equipment needed for the Taiwan military’s ongoing modernization of its arsenal of 1980s-era F-16 jet fighters along with additional missiles.
The approved package was held up by Avril D. Haines, the Obama White House deputy national security adviser. Haines did not return an email seeking comment.
Former Obama administration spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the administration held up the arms package. He told the Washington Free Beacon that neither Haines nor others in the Obama White House “unilaterally blocked the package that was under discussions, which was relatively modest.”
“In consultation with State and DoD, the Obama administration decided not to move forward with it in the final days of the administration,” Price said, adding that one factor was that “we thought it would be a useful package for the next administration to pursue in their time because it was well-calibrated to strike the balance we typically try to achieve consistent with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.”
One administration official said the package also included communications, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance gear that would bolster the Taiwan military’s command and control systems.
This official said one positive aspect of the failure to send the latest arms is that pro-China officials in the U.S. government who oppose helping Taiwan will no longer be able to argue internally that the United States had fulfilled its obligations under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act with the package. The act requires the United States to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons.
“Now we can start from scratch with a truly useful arms package once the assistant secretaries are in place,” the official said, referring to working-level political appointees at the Pentagon and State Department.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross said he does not discuss “pre-decisional matters.”
“The objective of our defense engagement with Taiwan is to ensure that Taiwan remains secure, confident, free from coercion and able to engage in a peaceful, productive dialogue to resolve differences in a manner acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” Ross said, noting U.S. arms sales support that goal.
“We strongly believe that our policy has contributed to stability in the Taiwan Strait by providing Taipei with the confidence needed to pursue constructive interactions with Beijing.”
The official Taiwan government office in Washington had no comment on the arms package.
Taiwan officials are looking forward to working closely with the Trump administration in upgrading defenses. The Taiwanese are considering the development of indigenous fighter aircraft and submarines and are hoping the United States can provide technology for the arms.
Former State Department official John Tkacik said the failure to release the arms package in December was a mistake.
“It is truly alarming that the White House, in its last month, would ignore a defense transfer recommendation endorsed by both the State and Defense Departments, especially after the incoming president had already signaled his support of a strengthened security relationship with Taiwan,” Tkacik said.
Tkacik said it is likely that Obama administration officials in charge of Asia policy, after eight years of giving the Chinese free rein in Asia, were unhappy with Trump’s tough posture toward Beijing.
“If the new National Security Council can’t move forward afresh with strengthened defense supplies to Taiwan, given State and Pentagon recommendations to do it, I’m afraid the new administration will lose its momentum, like Obama’s people did, and simply resign itself to letting Beijing take over in Asia,” he assed.
Randall Schriver, a former assistant secretary of state and assistant secretary of defense, said the Trump administration should increase arms transfers to Taiwan.
“China’s growing capabilities combined with an intent to put greater pressure on Taiwan should compel us take a serious look at increasing our security assistance to Taiwan including support for its indigenous submarine program and making available a [vertical, short-take off and landing] fighter aircraft,” he said.
Rick Fisher, an expert on Asian military affairs, also voiced concern.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration would not release this final arms sales package before leaving office, but at a deeper level, that it did not exercise the leadership to accelerate this F-16 upgrade package first approved in 2011,” said Fisher, senior fellow at International Assessment and Strategy Center.
The delay in upgrading the jets means China has gained six years on deploying advanced fighters jets and next generation short and medium range ballistic missiles that threaten Taiwan.
Fisher warned that China is preparing for a possible invasion of Taiwan in early 2020 and the Trump administration should provide new military capabilities for the island to help deter any Chinese attack.
“We are really up against the wall; if we cannot devise the right package of fifth generation capabilities, be it new F-35 fighters, submarine technologies, new, cheap, long range anti-ship cruise missiles and energy weapons, then we will face the threat of Chinese invasion of Taiwan perhaps as soon as the early 2020s,” Fisher said.
Taiwan in January began upgrading its force of 144 F-16s. The jets will be outfitted with active electronically scanned array fire-control radar that analysts say can detect radar-evading stealth aircraft.
New avionics equipment also is being added along with advanced AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
The last arms package for Taiwan was announced in December 2015 and was worth $1.83 billion. It included two Perry-class Frigates, Javelin anti-tank missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles, and amphibious assault vehicles. Command and control hardware, F-16 gear, Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems and Stinger surface-to-air missiles were also part of that package.
In December, China’s military conducted a show of force with a squadron of jet fighters and a bomber that circled Taiwan Dec. 10.
U.S. EP-3 and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft shadowed the Chinese jets during the incident, along with a long-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drone aircraft.
The Chinese saber rattling against Taiwan coincided with Trump’s phone call with Tsai.
China also protested a provision of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill that was signed into law in December. The new law contains language calling on the Pentagon to conduct a program of senior military exchanges with Taiwan.
Current policy has limited military exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officers despite a requirement under the Taiwan Relations Act for the United States to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.
The phone call between Trump and Tsai in December was the first time an American president had spoken directly to Taiwan’s president in decades and prompted protests from Beijing, which views Taiwan as a break away province.
The United States does not accept China’s interpretation of the so-called One-China policy and regards the Beijing-Taipei dispute over Taiwan’s status as unresolved.
“Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” Trump tweeted Dec. 2.
Trump has taken a hard line against China, mainly over unfair trade and currency practices. After the Dec. 2 call, he also suggested the United States might abandon the One China policy and adopt more favorable Taiwan policies.
However, Trump later reiterated U.S. support for the American interpretation of the One China Policy.
Source: Washington Free Beacon “Obama White House Blocked Needed U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan”
Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Malaysia will sign a contract to purchase Littoral Mission Ships from China when Prime Minister Najib Razak visits Beijing next week, according to a Facebook posting by the country’s Ministry of Defence.
The text of a speech to be delivered by Malaysian defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein was posted on Facebook on Tuesday, but was later removed after Reuters asked a defense ministry spokesman for comment.
The purchase of the patrol vessels, if it proceeds, would be Malaysia’s first significant defense deal with China and comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and as the United States and China compete for influence in the region.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday he was “unclear on the specifics of the situation”. But responding to a Reuters question at the daily ministry briefing he noted China and Malaysia “continue to cooperate and communicate regularly across all spheres”.
Malaysia’s ties with the United States became strained after the Department of Justice filed lawsuits linked to a money-laundering investigation at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which Najib founded and had overseen as chairman of its advisory council.
Najib is traveling to China on Sunday for a week-long visit.
“On November 5, 2016, the Defence Ministry will sign a contract for the procurement of Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) with SASTIND (the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense), which is an important part of the schedule during the Prime Minister’s official visit to China,” the Facebook post quotes Hishammuddin saying.
However, a video recording of the speech at the Malaysian defense ministry by Hishammuddin does not mention this contract.
A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment and the prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Littoral Mission Ships are fast patrol vessels that can be equipped with a helicopter flight deck and carry missiles. They are primarily used for coastal security, maritime patrol and surveillance, but can also be deployed for disaster relief and search and rescue operations.
China claims most of the South China Sea as its territory. But Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have rival claims to parts of the waterway, which commands strategic sea lanes which carry some $5 trillion worth of trade a year.
PEAK IN TIES
Ties between Malaysia and China reached a new peak in December when China came to Najib’s rescue with a $2.3 billion deal to buy assets of scandal-hit state fund 1MDB, helping ease Najib’s concern over the firm’s mounting debt.
Najib is traveling with dozens of government leaders and business people to China. In a statement on Wednesday, he said Malaysia was committed to strengthening friendship with China and pushing ties to “new highs”.
The push to strengthen China ties come after July lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department implicating Najib in a money-laundering scandal.
The lawsuits allege over $3.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, some of which ended up with a ‘Malaysian Official 1,’ identified later by U.S. and Malaysian authorities as Najib.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing and said Malaysia will cooperate in the international investigations.
Malaysia could buy up to 10 of the littoral mission ships at a cost of approximately 300 million ringgit ($71.43 million) each, said Lam Choong Wah, senior fellow at REFSA, a Malaysia research institute. He is also the author of a book on Malaysian military capability.
“The truth is we could have bought these from a number of countries. But China is the only country that has provided political support for Malaysia during the 1MDB scandal. This is payback for that political support.”
Najib’s visit follows that of the Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who announced the country’s “separation” from the United States and signed a raft of memoranda of understanding for Chinese investment in the country.
Last week, Malaysia announced a 2 billion ringgit ($476.19 million) cut to its 2017 defense budget from last year’s levels.
A project to develop an amphibious corps was among those jettisoned, said Euan Graham, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think-tank.
“It was the U.S. marines who were liaising with the Malaysians on that,” Graham said.
“So a U.S.-backed initiative has effectively died now,” Graham said. “At the same time, a new bridge has been opened to China. If you put those together, whether it’s been by Malaysia’s design or not, it does send a combined signal of pulling back from the U.S. and outreach to China.”
$1 = 4.2000 ringgit)
(Additional reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff in KUAL LUMPUR and Sue-Lin Wong in BEIJING. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)
Source: Reuters “Malaysia to buy navy vessels from China in blow to U.S.”
Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
Liang Guanglie stresses co-operation over rivalry as he starts six-day tour of American military sites. It is a fence-mending visit, but also a visit amid worsening tensions between Beijing and Manila over disputed South China Sea waters.
SCMP.com – Defence chief sees Sino-US potential