Will Get Missiles If Attacked
29 2000 3:57PM ET
(AP) - A U.S. missile sale to Taiwan includes a highly unusual
condition: that they will not be turned over to the island
democracy unless China threatens an attack, a senior U.S.
defense official said Friday.
arrangement is designed to meet a U.S. arms export pledge
not to introduce new offensive military capabilities into
Asia, where tensions between Taiwan and China are a source
of growing U.S. concern.
pilots will train with the missiles, designated the AIM-120C
Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, at
Air Force training ranges in the United States, the defense
official said, speaking on condition he not be identified.
Their F-16s will be updated with the weapon control software.
a way for them to train up and be ready should the threat
occur,'' without provoking China into accelerating its pursuit
of a similar capability, the official said. China's air-to-air
missiles are far less advanced, although a Pentagon report
to Congress this summer said that later this decade China
is likely to field a new missile that would give its growing
fleet of new-generation fighters an AMRAAM-like capability.
AMRAAM, in use by U.S. aircraft since 1991 and built by
Raytheon Co., allows a fighter pilot to launch the weapon
from beyond visual range of his target. It also provides
a greater capability to attack low-altitude targets.
Taiwan arms deal comes at a particularly delicate moment
in U.S.-China relations, which were set back last year when
the U.S. Air Force bombed China's embassy in Yugoslavia.
Just last week, relations took an important step forward
when the Senate approved legislation to normalize trade
relations with Beijing.
on Friday condemned the Taiwan deal and warned that Washington
would bear unspecified consequences for defying Beijing.
which regards Taiwan as part of the motherland, strongly
opposes U.S. arms sales to the island. Under the Taiwan
Relations Act, the United States is committed to providing
Taiwan with defensive arms.
$150 million deal for advanced air-to-air missiles seems
likely to complicate U.S.-China talks on missile proliferation
which resumed this summer after China broke all military
contacts with Washington following the embassy bombing.
The United States wants to constrain China's exports of
missile-related technologies, while Beijing insists that
U.S. missile sales to Taiwan show Washington uses a double
Cordesman, a national security expert at the private Center
for Strategic and International Studies, said Friday the
AMRAAM arrangement with Taiwan strikes a sensible balance
between Taiwan and China.
AMRAAM in reserve says that with little or no warning the
United States can give Taiwan air supremacy over the Taiwan
Straits,'' Cordesman said. Taiwan is barely 100 miles from
unusual arrangement was not mentioned in a Pentagon announcement
late Thursday saying it planned to sell 200 AMRAAM missiles
to Taiwan as part of a $1.3 billion arms package. The Pentagon
said the sale would augment and improve Taiwan's air defense
capabilities without upsetting the regional military balance.
U.S. official who discussed the AMRAAM sale said it was
approved in response to China's efforts to improve its offensive
military capability aimed at Taiwan. He said U.S. officials
believe China is pursuing the purchase or development of
its own air-to-air missile with a beyond-visual-range capability,
but the United States insisted that Taiwan not take direct
possession of AIM-120C missiles for the time being.
don't want to spur an arms race in the area,'' the official
this week the Pentagon announced that it was selling 100
AMRAAM missiles to Singapore. Those, too, will stay in the
United States and delivered to Singapore only in the event
of a military threat against it, officials said.
addition to the AIM-120C air-to-air missiles, the Pentagon
also agreed to sell Taiwan 71 Harpoon anti-ship missiles
for $240 million, a package of 155mm howitzers and other
munitions for $405 million, and an advanced communications
system for Taiwan's field military forces for $513 million.