Arms Deal Excludes Warships
E. Ricks and Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday , April 18, 2000 ; A01
Clinton decided yesterday to sell a package of high-tech
weapons to Taiwan, but followed a Pentagon recommendation
to put off the politically volatile sale of four Aegis destroyers,
unclear whether that compromise will mollify Taiwan, but
it is unlikely to satisfy either congressional Republicans,
who wanted a bigger arms deal, or the government of mainland
China, which would have preferred a much smaller one.
package approved by the Clinton administration includes
sophisticated air-to-air and anti-ship missiles as well
as a "Pave Paws" long-range radar system able
to peer thousands of miles into mainland China. But Congress
is likely to focus on the deferral of the sale of four Aegis
warships, which cost about $1.1 billion each and boast powerful
radars able to track more than 100 incoming missiles and
aircraft at a time.
am extremely disappointed to learn that the Pentagon has
apparently succumbed to pressure from the State Department
and the White House to sacrifice Taiwan's security in order
to appease the dictators in Beijing," said Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). "If
the Pentagon will not stand up for Taiwan, then it is clear
Congress will have to take action."
of Defense Walter B. Slocombe, who has been the Pentagon's
point man on the nettlesome arms request from Taiwan, defended
package on the whole is quite robust, with first-class air-to-air
missiles and anti-ship missiles," said Slocombe, who
has tried to figure out how to sell enough equipment to
help Taiwan militarily without selling so much that Beijing
would be provoked into a reaction. "We have nothing
to apologize for in this package."
regards Taiwan as its rightful territory and invariably
opposes U.S. arms sales to the self-governing island, which
take place at this time each year. But China's Communist
leadership is particularly sensitive now because of the
victory of Chen Shui-bian, a longtime advocate of Taiwanese
independence, in the island's recent presidential election.
are opposed to an arms sale because that would boost the
morale of Taiwan authorities in refusing peaceful reunification
with China," said Zhang Yuanyuan, spokesman for the
Chinese Embassy. "Especially at this time of great
sensitivity, we're concerned that this might be viewed as
a wrong signal. So we appeal for great caution and prudence
on the part of the American government."
which will receive formal notification of the administration's
decision today, had no official response yesterday. Its
military has been worried by a Chinese naval and missile
buildup across the 100-mile-wide strait that separates the
island from the mainland.
officials plan to tell Taiwanese officials today that the
package is designed to address their greatest military vulnerability--
air defense. The Pave Paws system could be linked in the
future to a theater missile defense system, an array of
anti-missile interceptors capable of shielding a region
the size of Taiwan.
package approved by the White House also includes an upgraded
model of the Maverick air-to-ground missile, which can be
used to attack ships, and the advanced medium-range air-to-air
missile, or AMRAAM, designed for use against aircraft. But
in an unusual move, the AMRAAM missiles sold to Taiwan will
be kept in the United States and not shipped overseas unless
China acquires a similar missile from Russia.
part of the arms sale most likely to anger China is the
Pave Paws radar, which is designed to monitor ballistic
missiles. As used by the United States, the Pave Paws has
a range of about 3,000 miles, but the version sold to Taiwan
may not be as powerful, a Pentagon official said.
I were the Chinese, I'd have to assume that the Taiwan radar
was connected to the American missile defense network,"
said John Pike, director of space policy at the Federation
of American Scientists, referring to the proposed U.S. construction
of a $20 billion national missile defense system over the
next five years. But a Pentagon official rejected that notion,
saying the United States does not have the kind of political
or military links to Taiwan that would permit such cooperation
in erecting missile defenses.
yesterday's decision, it is possible that Congress may yet
prod the administration into selling Taiwan the Aegis destroyers--or
into some compensatory measure, such as giving the U.S.
Navy's Pacific Fleet more Aegis-equipped warships that could
be dispatched to Taiwan in a crisis. The Aegis ships are
built primarily at shipyards in Mississippi, home of Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott (R), and Maine, home of Defense
Secretary William S. Cohen.
Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress favor the sale
of the destroyers. Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) said
that the administration decision reflected "a balanced
approach" but that he was "disappointed"
the Aegis wasn't being sold. "The most likely threat
is a missile attack across the Taiwan Straits, and Aegis
is the only thing that would be helpful," he said.
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