Washington, Oct. 12 (CNA)－Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said Thursday that the United States is moving toward a “more normal foreign military sales relationship” with Taiwan.
Schriver, who was asked by reporters whether the U.S. will change its arms sales policy on Taiwan from the current “bundling” approach, said the Trump administration views arms sales to Taiwan as foreign military sales and will push for more normal arms sales.
Schriver made the comments on the sidelines of the 8th Annual Jamestown China Defense and Security Conference organized by the Jamestown Foundation and the Global Taiwan Institute.
In September, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced an arms sales proposal that covers standard spare parts and the repair and replacement of spare parts in support of Taiwan’s F-16, C-130, F-5, Indigenous Defense Fighter and other aircraft systems.
The sale would be the second U.S. weapons agreement with Taiwan since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, after a US$1.4 billion deal in June 2017. The US$300 million proposal was described by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council as a move by the U.S. away from the previous “bundling” approach to arms sales to Taiwan.
The council also urged that new arms sales requests by Taiwan be given an interagency assessment that does not consider China’s potential reaction to the sale as a part of the equation.
On Wednesday, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty said he was sure it was going to be a “case-by-case” approach but was not aware of any new U.S. arms deals with Taiwan that would be approved soon.
In response, Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉), spokesman of Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, said a normal arms sales approach is expected to help Taiwan upgrade its military capability. Chen said the latest US$330 million arms sales proposal showed Taiwan and the U.S. have good communications and cooperation which is expected to enable Taiwan to obtain necessary weapons parts ina timely fashion to meet the country’s military needs.
At the conference, Mike Green, a former United States National Security Council (NSC) official, said there is no doubt that Beijing is ramping up pressure on Taiwan in all arenas, diplomatic, economic, information and especially military. “In my view we should be pushing back in every domain so the military move is appropriate,” Green said.
He said it is concerning that officials in the administration do not know the importance of Taiwan or understand related security issues, referring to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has suggested that once Washington stops arms sales to Taiwan, the U.S. and China will reach an agreement on trade.
Green said he hoped the U.S. government would build a broader consensus on Taiwan policy by closing difference of opinion in the administration and not rushing to pursue a trade agreement with China.
Meanwhile, Abraham Denmark, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said at the conference the pragmatism from the administration in terms of Taiwan policy has been fairly consistent with past administrations.
The only big change, Denmark said, was that the U.S. purposely made it public U.S. warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait a few months ago, but he preferred to see the move as symbolic. He said when it comes to Taiwan policy, the U.S. should think about what it can do to help Taiwan and cross-strait stability.
“I am thinking about substantive impact” which will be more important than a symbolic gesture, Denmark said.