What sense does this make? President Clinton decides against selling four Aegis destroyers to Taiwan, but approves the sale of long-range radar designed to detect missile launches.
If the Taiwanese can't defend themselves, a radar sure doesn't do much good except, perhaps, to tell them when to duck. What the Taiwanese need are missiles of their own to scare off Communist China from launching attacks.
According to a classified Pentagon report leaked to The Washington Post, Taiwan is far more vulnerable to attack from the mainland than is generally realized. Its military technology has fallen behind Beijing's, weakening the island nation's ability to defend against airplanes as well as missiles.
The refusal to sell four sophisticated Aegis destroyers indicates the administration is not about to help Taiwan beef up its military, even though it's not asking for any handouts: It's willing to pay for everything it gets.
Exacerbating the problem is that both President Clinton and Beijing are disturbed that Taiwan voters elected a pro-independence president in the March elections. Chen Shui-bian has not played up his controversial views since taking office, yet the Clinton Administration is still reluctant to sell military goods for fear of ruffling China's feathers.
This reluctance has drawn the attention of Congress, which is understandably concerned that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act is being ignored. The act requires that all arms-sales decisions must be based solely on Taiwan's defense needs.
In light of the Pentagon report, those needs have never been greater. The administration must do a lot more to help Taiwan build up its defenses than it is doing.
Congress is so alarmed at the neglect that it has drawn up a new bill with strong bipartisan support, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. Among other things, this legislation would order the executive branch to explain whenever it rejects, postpones or changes a military request from Taipei.
We're on Congress' side in this showdown. Lawmakers rightly value Taiwan as a loyal ally and trading partner and, unlike the mainland government, it is free, open and democratic. These are the values our government should encourage -- and we shouldn't not kowtow to Communist tyranny.
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