Pentagon said on Monday that the country has approved arms sales worth $2.2 billion to Taiwan, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles. When US media reported the story, they said the plan was approved "amid trade tensions with Beijing."
Two Su-35 fighter jets and a H-6K bomber fly in formation on May 11, 2018. (Photo: Xinhua)
It is the fourth arm sale to Taiwan by the administration of US President Donald Trump in the past two years. Compared to previous US administrations, the $2.2 billion deal is neither too big nor too small, yet bigger than three previous arms sales by the Trump administration to Taiwan, indicating an upward trend.
US arms sales to Taiwan were once restricted by the August 17 Communique signed in 1982, which stipulates that Washington must gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan until the issue was fundamentally resolved. But the US later turned its back on the commitment.
The Chinese mainland must depend on itself to resolve the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan. The Chinese mainland's military power is getting strong enough to make Taiwan's newly purchased weapons of no military significance. The island's meager military spending is no longer capable of providing a military balance across the Straits.
Moreover, the Chinese mainland's enhanced strength enables us to use more leverages to suppress external arms sales to the island.
The US has several goals in selling weapons to Taiwan - make money, maintain US influence on the island and contain the Chinese mainland. Washington is aware that arms sales have long been meaningless for helping maintain military balance across the Taiwan Straits. But the focus of US policy has shifted from defending Taiwan's security to a power game with China.
Maintaining ties with the US is the basis of Taiwan authorities' cross-Straits policies. They are aware that the People's Liberation Army has an overwhelming advantage over Taiwan's military. If the Chinese mainland decides to liberate the island, it would be easier than the liberation of Beiping in 1949. What Taiwan wants now is a psychological effect by declaring its close relationship with the US. But cutting a large slice of Taiwan's military spending to US arms dealers is like kowtowing to the US and paying the US for protection.
The Chinese mainland increasingly dominates the cross-Straits situation while exercising restraint. But it has the capability to change the rules of the game across the Straits.
The US and Taiwan must not step out of line; otherwise, a price must be paid. We might as well make a bold assumption. If an arms sale between the US and Taiwan is not acceptable to the Chinese mainland, if the latter announces it would resolutely destroy the equipment once they are placed on the island, what would happen?
It is without question that Taiwan will be the first to flinch, because even if the Chinese mainland and the US can withstand a clash in the Straits, Taiwan will find it unbearable.
Taiwan's security depends on how it deals with cross-Straits relations and avoids military confrontation with the mainland. The Chinese mainland has been adhering to the policy of peaceful reunification. Taiwan authorities should not force the mainland to abandon such a policy.