Procurement: Taiwan Finally Buys P-3s

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July 11, 2007: After six years of political maneuvering, the Taiwanese legislature has approved the purchase of twelve U.S. P-3C maritime patrol (and anti-submarine) aircraft, as well as updates for its Patriot anti-missile systems. Since 2001, the United States has been offering Taiwan an $18 billion package of weapons, including 66 F-16s. But Taiwanese politics has prevented the legislature from accepting the offer. The problem is that, in the last ten years, the native Taiwanese have dethroned the Nationalist Party, which took control of Taiwan in 1948, after losing control of China to the communists. The Nationalists were always a minority on Taiwan, and the native Taiwanese resented it, even though many joined the Nationalist party. But in the 1990s, they lost their absolute control of the government, as the Nationalists allowed democracy to take over completely.

The Taiwanese politicians were for independence from China, and in response, the Nationalists called for eventual merger with China. For half a century the Nationalists had planned for eventually for retaking control of China, but for most of that period, no one seriously believed the communists would be ousted. Some Nationalists now believe that democracy will eventually depose the Chinese Communists. At that point, a merger of Taiwan and China would make the Nationalists a major player in Chinese politics once more. Many Taiwanese will accept this as a suitable Plan B, but for the moment, most Taiwanese want to remain independent. Taiwanese also do not want to provoke China into attacking Taiwan. As part of that policy, the Nationalists have used their control of the legislature to block buying the U.S. weapons. But the pro-independence politicians, including the president of Taiwan, made the P-3C purchase appear as a purely defensive move, to insure China does not try to blockade Taiwan (whose prosperity, and very survival, is dependent on access to the sea.)

 


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