U.S. Navy, Defense Industry Push
Sale of Aegis Destroyers to Taiwan
Wall Street Journal, March 21 2001
By GREG JAFFE
Staff Reporter of THE WALL
-- The U.S. Navy and the defense industry have been lobbying
Congress to support the sale of Aegis radar-equipped destroyers
to Taiwan, complicating what was already
a perilous political decision for the Bush administration.
push comes as the administration is set to wrap up deliberations
on what types of weapons to sell Taiwan,
which has requested four destroyers equipped with the sophisticated
Aegis air-defense and battle-management system to counter
China's growing missile threat. China has adopted a hard
line opposing the sale.
Mr. Bush's own Republican Party and some of his advisers
are divided on how to deal with China, with some conservatives
urging him to confront what they view as a rising Chinese
threat, while others argue for a course of engagement.
will be able to pound Taiwan
no matter what we sell the Taiwanese," said one GOP
staffer. "It is in everyone's best interest to maintain
an even keel and not overly mess with the status quo."
the companies that build the destroyers, General
Dynamics Corp., Falls Church, Va., and Litton
Industries Inc., Los Angeles, the sale to Taiwan would provide a much-needed
boost. Under the Navy's current shipbuilding plan both companies
will be busy until 2005, when there is a hole in the construction
schedule. From 2005 to 2007 only one destroyer will be built
at the two shipyards, say industry officials.
officials have said that a sale to Taiwan
would drive down infrastructure costs that the Navy would
otherwise have to bear to keep the yards running. With the
exception of Taiwan, no foreign buyers have shown
any recent interest in purchasing Aegis-class destroyers.
and industry officials drew attention to the hole in the
shipbuilding budget last year, but this year have stepped
up their efforts, sensing an ally in the White House, say
Hill staffers. At least two of the Aegis-equipped destroyers
likely would be built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula,
Miss., home state of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
opposes the sale to Taiwan
because it fears the U.S. could link the ships into a regional
missile-defense network. U.S. officials discount such a
possibility, saying that China grossly inflates the capability
of the system. They note that the U.S. is still years away
from deploying a sea-based regional missile-defense system
capable of defending its own troops, let alone Taiwan.
vocal group of conservative Republicans is urging the administration
to disregard China's warnings. Several GOP staffers have
suggested that if the U.S. doesn't agree to sell Taiwan
the Aegis combat system, conservative House members will
reintroduce the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act,
which calls for closer military ties between the U.S. and
The act, certain to infuriate Beijing, passed the House
last year but never made it to the floor of the Senate for
a vote. "There is no plan right now to bring it up,
but it is an option. It is a card that people are holding,"
said one GOP House staffer. "The administration needs
to make a major break with the policy of the last eight
years on the arms sales."
to Greg Jaffe at firstname.lastname@example.org