Stephen Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, is urging the Legislative Yuan again to pass an arms purchase appropriation bill as soon as possible as possible.He held a press conference last week, the second in a half year, to repeat the call for early legislation to enable Taiwan acquire weapons and equipment to defend itself. The arms deal approved by President George W. Bush in 2001 has been stalled in the legislature for six years, and the top U.S. diplomat in Taipei suggested that the delay in approving the acquisition would lead “other countries” to think Taiwan is not serious about its own defense.
We fully understand American impatience.But people in Taiwan tend to regard Young’s call as another ultimatum, though no “or else” was said.The call came right after the United States and Japan had omitted mention of Taiwan as an issue of mutual concern in their two-plus-two ministerial conference in Washington.The omission might not be intended as a warning, but was so considered in Taipei.The two countries declared for the first time in February 2005 Taiwan was a common security issue and it was their common strategic objective in the region to “encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue.”It doesn’t take long for anybody to conclude Japan is one of “other countries” hinted by Mr. Young, who issued his first threat at his press meeting towards the end of last year.
Of course, it’s wrong on the part of the nation’s highest legislative organ to tie up the reorganization of the Central Election Commission with the passage of the national budget bill which provides for part of the armament acquisition from the United States. The budget bill, as a matter of fact, should have been adopted by the end of last year.
But we wish to remind the Americans of what have transpired in Taiwan over the past half dozen years.When President Bush ratified the deal, Taiwan was rich enough to buy all the weapons and equipment the United States would sell.The country has since become increasingly poor.Now it can’t afford all those expensive armament, albeit the people are determined to defend themselves against attacks from China.
On the other hand, rightly or wrongly, almost all lawmakers are convinced that China is unlikely to attack.So long as Taipei refrains from declaring independence, they have more than sufficient reason to believe, there will be no invasion from across the Taiwan Strait.A majority of Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers even regard China as a paper tiger who dare not invade, even if independence is declared, simply because there is a tacit assurance of American involvement in not so possible hostilities.We can’t blame our legislators too harshly for not giving the arms purchase the priority it deserves.
Will Uncle Sam have a little more patience?We are sure the necessary fund will be authorized as soon as the current political hassle and bustle in Taipei are over.