The United States used to sell weapons on a large scale to Taiwan during a president’s last year in office, but it might not sell submarine technologies to Taiwan this year because of the Chinese mainland’s pressure since Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party came to power.
The US needs Chinese mainland’s cooperation on many issues. In fact, the US has not gained a real victory in the arbitration case on the South China Sea.
The annual meeting of Taiwan-US defense industry will be held as scheduled in September, and Tsai Ing-wen’s government will send officials. Tsai might ask the US to transfer submarine technologies, but there will be no progress.
Considering Japan was also involved in the weapons sales, the situation will be very complicated.
Taiwan wants the US to give it submarine technologies, but it might require that Taiwan has the capability of producing the submarines first. If it could not, the transfer of technologies will not help. I doubt that Taiwan could produce submarines, and thus it is unlikely that the US will transfer it the technologies.
The US might continue the plan of upgrading the F16-A/B planes for Taiwan, but it will not sell the advanced F16-C/D planes. It is already good for Taiwan to get the F16-A/B technologies. F16-C/D planes have a strong land attack capability and a combat radius of 1,000 kilometers. They can fly deep into Chinese mainland, posing a great threat, and the US might not sell them to Taiwan.
Further, the US has not gained a victory in the South China Sea arbitration case.
The US National Security Adviser Susan Rice even did not mention the arbitration case during her recent visit to China. The US Secretary of State John Kerry talked about the case, but following the tune of Chinese mainland. Kerry’s stance has not gained any support from other countries.
Since the US needs Chinese mainland to cooperate on many issues, the Democratic Progressive Party will not get what they want at the annual defense meeting.
It might be easy for Barrack Obama’s government to sell some weapons to Taiwan if Kuomintang remained in power. Now, the mainland is keeping a close eye on Taiwan after Tsai took office. Chinese mainland does not want the US to send wrong messages to Taiwan separatists.
The South China Sea arbitration case has also harmed the status of Taiping Island. Tsai had to board on a warship to declare the sovereignty, and Taiwan’s “Interior Minister” Yeh Jiunn-rong also visited the Taiping Island. Tsai’s behavior has irritated the US. The US even criticized her without naming.
The US has compromised on some issues to seek Chinese mainland’s cooperation, including the Taiwan affairs. The US will not adopt any favorable policies for Taiwan and it is also worried about the Democratic Progressive Party taking more provocative actions after getting weapons.
I think Tsai will behave very carefully in the cross-Straits ties, and will not act like Chen Shui-bian taking big moves to provoke the Chinese mainland, but she will take some small steps, such as seeking independence in culture and working toward gradual Taiwan independence. She can ask the mainland to show goodwill, but she will not, which will not make the mainland happy. The mainland also has lots of issues to solve, such as North Korea, South China Sea, and East China Sea, which are in Asia, not to say other places.
The mainland does not want to have any problems in the cross-Straits ties, unless Taiwan holds a referendum on joining the UN. The mainland will take strong measures against that. The mainland seems to be confident that it needs to do little but Taiwan will makes mistakes itself. Taiwan might lose the development benefit from the mainland. The mainland has no need to respond harshly on Taiwan’s new southbound policy, because it could not make any breakthroughs.
The US election will be held soon. Hillary Clinton has the highest possibility to win. When she was the US Secretary of State, she said Taiwan was an important security and economic partner. But it is still unknown what she will do if she takes office. I think Taiwan expects the US will not harm it again during its presidential election, and it is possible that Tsai might not take strong actions when the US betrays Taiwan.
Chen I-hsin is a former professor of Tamkang University’s Institute of American Studies.
(Opinions expressed in the article don't represent those of the Sino-US.com.)