A senior U.S. State Department official said arms sales to Taiwan are “a matter of a policy in the United States that Taiwan’s defensive needs are merited,” adding “China has been busy changing the status quo” that has maintained long-standing peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, including threats to use force against Taiwan.
Thursday, Bloomberg News, quoting unnamed sources, reported that the Trump administration has given tacit approval to Taiwan’s request to buy more than 60 F-16 fighter jets. Taiwan had submitted a formal request earlier this month. The United States is Taiwan’s largest military equipment supplier.
“As a matter of policy, the Department does not comment or confirm proposed defense sales or transfers until formally notified to Congress,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA.
China, which claims democratically self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, usually condemns such sales.
China changing status quo
In a phone briefing, Patrick Murphy, the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told VOA that arms sales to Taiwan “are allowed under the framework” of Washington’s “One China Policy,” which is based on three U.S.-China joint communications and the Taiwan Relations Act enacted in 1979 to govern relations between the United States and Taiwan.
“Our primary desire is to see a strong commitment to the status quo” that “has brought about peace, stability and prosperity,” Murphy said.
He added China is changing the status quo by threatening “the use of violence directed at Taiwan, aggressively trying to “reduce the number of diplomatic partners that Taiwan enjoys around the world,” and “cropping Taiwan out of the international space and international organizations where Taiwan has made important contributions to public health, civil aviation and many more.”
In 2018, China persuaded the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador to forge relations with Beijing, which leaves 17 countries that still recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
Tour of Pacific allies
On Thursday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen embarked on a diplomatic tour to allies in the Pacific that will end with a stopover in Hawaii on March 27.
China urged the United States to block Tsai’s transit through Hawaii on her way home.
“We have consistently and resolutely opposed the United States or other countries which have diplomatic relations with China arranging this kind of transit,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday.
In 2011, the Obama administration rejected a similar Taiwanese request for F-16 fighter jets over concern about antagonizing China.
The Trump administration, however, has taken a more assertive approach toward China. Vice President Mike Pence, in remarks on China policy last year at the Hudson Institute, accused the Chinese Communist Party of “rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state and federal officials.”
“Worst of all, China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections,” Pence added.