US arms sales to Taiwan 'offensive, but useless'

By Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/27 17:21:59

Will reduce mutual trust in Straits, cause more military drills: Taiwan expert

A soldier assigned to a combined arms brigade under the PLA 76th Group Army uses smoke bombs to create a smokescreen for concealment as he engages mock enemy with his rifle during a real-combat drill on September 26, 2020, which aims to beef up soldiers' courage and uprightness in battlefield.Photo:China Military

The US has announced plans for a new round of arms sales to arm the secessionist Taiwan authorities with offensive Harpoon missiles that can attack the Chinese mainland, shortly after the Chinese central government announced on Monday sanctions against US military industrial firms and individuals involved in the arms sales to Taiwan.

Chinese mainland experts warned that although these missiles won't be able to threaten the People's Liberation Army (PLA) effectively, this is a greater provocation than in the past, as the weapons are not for self-defense but can reach the coastal regions of the mainland. 

China urged the US to stop the relevant arms sales and military connections with the island, and cancel relevant arms sales plans to prevent further damage to China-US relations, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a routine press conference on Tuesday, noting that "China will take legitimate and necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests with firm determination."

Whether the sanctions can effectively stop the US move or not, the mainland must show its determination to safeguard its own sovereignty and deter other firms and other countries from following the US in challenging China's sovereignty, they said. For the Taiwan secessionist authority, more arms sales would not bring safety, but will make it get closer to the brink of war, experts said.  

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said in a statement released on Tuesday that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan wants to arm themselves to resist the reunification and realize secessionism, but will only "damage the cross-Straits peace and stability, and bring a bigger disaster to the people of Taiwan."

According to the AP, the Trump administration on Monday (US time) notified the US Congress of plans for a $2.37 billion sale of Harpoon missile systems to Taiwan just hours after the Chinese mainland announced sanctions against US defense contractors, including Boeing, the lead contractor on the Harpoon deal, as well as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other individuals and entities that are involved in arms sales to the island. 

The US arms sales to Taiwan violated the three joint communiques that China and the US signed, especially the one signed on August 17, 1982, Wang said.

According to the 1982 communiqué, the US government states that it "does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms… and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution."  

"The move has interfered in China's internal affairs, seriously damaged China's sovereignty and security interests, and sent wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists, and has seriously harmed China-US relations and the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits,"Wang noted.

Harpoon missiles are capable of striking ships and land targets. Boeing says the missile uses GPS-aided inertial navigation and delivers a 500-pound blast warhead. It can target coastal defense sites, surface-to-air missile sites, exposed aircraft, ships in port, and port and industrial facilities, the AP reported.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "the US missiles could bring some threats to the PLA if war breaks out between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, so this is more proof that the US has violated its promises made in the three joint communiques with the People's Republic of China to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan."

Just as US national security adviser Robert O'Brien suggested to the island's secessionist DPP authority, the US is trying to make the island weaponized like a "porcupine" with some offensive US-made weapons so that the Chinese mainland will not risk bringing back Taiwan with force if necessary, said mainland experts. 

"The threat that these Harpoon missiles poses to the PLA is very limited, as they are high subsonic missiles designed in the 1980s, and the current self-defense and anti-missile facilities installed by the PLA on its vessels and land-based bases can shoot them down easily," Song said.

The US has a more advanced anti-ship missile with stealth capability, but it won't sell it to Taiwan, so the latest announced sale is another expensive deal aimed at taking Taiwan taxpayers' money with low-quality weapons, in other words, the US is still treating the island as a "cash machine," Song further said. He noted that similar missiles, like the Hsiung Feng III developed by Taiwan's own defense industrial institute, will be abandoned by the Taiwan authorities due to this arms sale. 

Some Taiwan-based observers said if Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who has less connections with the secessionist DPP authority, wins the US presidential election, the planned US arms sales to the island might be impacted.  

But mainland experts said regardless of whether Donald Trump or Biden wins the election next week, it is unlikely the US will make any change to the deal, as both Republicans and Democrats share a consensus in the Congress on arms sales to Taiwan. 

More arms sales, more dangers

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the US may make some adjustments to its China policy if Trump fails to get reelected, but before the formal power transition in January 2021, the Trump administration could make more extreme and offensive moves, which "China will not tolerate." 

Due to the Cold War mentality that drives US policymakers to contain China and the huge profits brought about by arms sales, the US Congress has already passed a series of acts in recent years authorizing the US government to normalize arms sales to Taiwan, despite the fact these acts are illegal under international law as they damage China's sovereignty, so even if Biden and the Democrats gain power, the US will still sell weapons to Taiwan, Song said. 

Chang Ya-chung, a professor at the Taipei-based "National Taiwan University" and a member of the island's opposition party KMT, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the US has always used the military conflicts or tensions between others to earn money in the Middle East and Europe, and the arms sales to the island of Taiwan is just the same old trick.

"Although US politicians always said the arms sales can reinforce the stability of the region, the fact is that more US arms sales will bring less mutual trust between Taiwan and the mainland, and incur more military drills by the PLA, and the mainland will increase its inputs to further enlarge its military advantage over the island," Chang said.

If the Chinese mainland determines that the US arms sales can make Taiwan a "porcupine" that could effectively increase the difficulties for the reunification, the mainland might decide to solve the problem before Taiwan get fully armed to become a real "porcupine," Chang further said. He went go to say that "those arms sales serve the US interest instead of Taiwan's safety, and the increasing arms sales will make the island get closer to the brink of war."

Chiu Yi, a political commentator in the island of Taiwan, predicted that the PLA may use force with the first purpose to force Taiwan to surrender and bring it to the negotiating table, and the best time for unification-by-force may be next year.

Sanctions for deterrence

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian announced at a routine press conference on Monday that China would sanction US firms including Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon as well as individuals and entities that are involved in arms sales to the island of Taiwan. The sanctions came in response to recently approved US arms sales to Taiwan on October 21, which could have a total value of $1.81 billion, Zhao said.

All of these US firms have direct or indirect businesses in the Chinese mainland, so the sanctions will close the door on the most stable and profitable markets to these companies, and this is the price they must pay for interfering in the Taiwan question, said Chinese mainland experts. Whether this move can deter their acts or not, the mainland must go through with it to demonstrate its determination in safeguarding its core interests and sovereignty, experts said.

"For instance, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, owned by Lockheed Martin, has cooperation with China on helicopters for civilian use, and Lockheed Martin also has interests in some nuclear power projects in China. Raytheon and its subsidiaries do business in China in the automobile industry. Boeing has broader cooperation with China on airliners," said Song, noting that these businesses could all be impacted.

Song said the sanctions announced by the Chinese mainland is a sign to other US firms and companies from other countries enjoying profits from the mainland market. "Those three US firms are an example of what will happen if they dare to put their hands on arms sales to Taiwan."


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