Experts divided over Taiwan F-16 sale

PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie’s new China program ...

595020_080516_f16_530619652.jpg
595020_080516_f16_530619652.jpg

PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie's new China program director.

The participants presented somewhat differing opinions on the diplomatically sensitive move. Swaine doesn't see a good time for U.S. approval of the sale in the near to medium term. Glaser, on the other hand, feels it will happen because postponing the sale until the next administration risks getting off on the wrong foot with China. She recommends the window after the Olympics but before Bush leaves office. Carnegie's Minxin Pei weighed in that if the sale goes forward, China would likely respond negatively to a request by Taiwan to withdraw some of the 1,000 balistic missiles aimed at it. But it's not as if jets and missiles are easily equated military capabilities in tit-for-tat negotiations, Glaser said.

PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

The Bush administration is currently debating a plan to sell 66 advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan. The F-16 sale was a recurring theme in a panel discussion Monday at the Carnegie Endowment on cross-straits relations featuring Bonnie Glaser of CSIS, Michael Swaine of Carnegie, and Douglas H. Paal, Carnegie’s new China program director.

The participants presented somewhat differing opinions on the diplomatically sensitive move. Swaine doesn’t see a good time for U.S. approval of the sale in the near to medium term. Glaser, on the other hand, feels it will happen because postponing the sale until the next administration risks getting off on the wrong foot with China. She recommends the window after the Olympics but before Bush leaves office. Carnegie’s Minxin Pei weighed in that if the sale goes forward, China would likely respond negatively to a request by Taiwan to withdraw some of the 1,000 balistic missiles aimed at it. But it’s not as if jets and missiles are easily equated military capabilities in tit-for-tat negotiations, Glaser said.

Glaser also remarked how this underscores a differing approach to cross-straits negotiations where some, including the U.S., view defense aid to Taiwan as a necessary precursor to productive negotiations as it gives the island nation a more solid footing on which to withstand threats. Others, namely China, strongly respond to arms sales as obstacles to diplomacy which discourage cross-straits engagement.

The State Department wants to delay the F-16 issue until after the Olympics, but I agree that if the U.S. is going to do this, it would be much better to sweep it under the rug of the outgoing administration so the new administration can chalk it up to “change” or whatever they’re into at that point.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.