As preparations get underway for a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to President Trump’s Maralago Resort in Florida next month, the sensitive issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan has reportedly been put on hold until after the summit. As we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, two items are at the top of Taiwan’s wish list.
The first is a cutting edge stealth fighter. Last week, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers in Taipei that a modernized air force requires stealth aircraft. A defense review released every four years called for fighters able to take off and land vertically. And taken together, that sounds very much like a request for the U.S. Marine Corps version of the F-35, a cutting edge stealth fighter than can take off and land vertically.
Amid renewed tensions with China, President Obama cancelled what’s been reported as a one billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan last December. The New York Times described the package that President Trump will offer as “robust,” but there’s been no suggestion that it would include systems as significant, or as expensive as the F-35.
The other item on the wish list, Taiwan has decided to take care of on its own. This week, President Tsai Ing-wen announced plans to construct a fleet of diesel-electric attack submarines. During a tour of a naval base, Voice of America reported her saying, “Strengthening underwater combat capabilities is most needed in Taiwan’s defense…We have been unable,” she added, “to solve this in the past.”
The U.S. does not build diesel electric subs. And France, Germany and Japan declined to make the sale for fear of alienating Beijing. USNI News estimates that it will be ten years before the first new sub is ready. Four years for design, four for construction, and two years for testing