The Daily Caller published a story on the new agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan for the island nation to buy 90 F-16 fighters. According to the report, the contract states that Lockheed Martin, an American company specializing in space and military industries, will manufacture the fleets for ten years – the stipulated time of the agreement.
This agreement has a clear context and a couple of meta messages: one from the United States in support of Taipei, another from both countries towards the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since the latter has previously expressed concern about the negotiations of this American-Taiwanese agreement.
AFP revealed the information that the buyer is Taiwan. The Pentagon had already announced the sale of the 90 F-16 fleets, but the buyer had not been officially announced. According to the news agency, a source close to the purchase of the fleet leaked that Taiwan was the buyer.
The Asia Times also echoed the AFP revelation, adding a key piece of information: Taiwan had not purchased a fleet of the aircraft since 1992. The agreement is historic for many reasons, including the time it took to acquire these types of ships, as well as the delicate context of international relations between the Beijing-Washington-Taiwan triangle.
Moreover, this agreement has not been a sudden one. Last year, the United States had approved Taiwan as a buyer of 66 aircraft, but the current deal considerably increases the number of F-16s, all amidst the multiple diplomatic and political conflicts.
The United States and conflicts with China
We must not forget how the Trump Administration has recently focused its foreign policy in Asia in favor of Hong Kong and Taiwan and strongly against China. Both rhetoric and sanctions show the White House’s disregard for the CCP’s attempt to undermine the freedoms of the Hong Kong Special Region and the Taiwanese island. Further, the United States- backed by evidence from the intelligence agency- has alleged that China is responsible for the proliferation of the coronavirus and mishandling the pandemic.
The English-language Indian newspaper, the Hindustan Times, reports that “last year, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry told reporters that “U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely violate the one-China principle.” It should be noted that despite the U.S. recognition of the “One China” principle, it has always cooperated with Taiwan in military and diplomatic matters. So much so that it is Taiwan’s principal supplier of arms and an international ally.
Taiwan, as a self-governing island, has all the makings of an internationally recognized country. However, the main problem is that international bodies – such as the United Nations – face a lot of interference from Beijing. Currently, the Chinese Communist Party has the first or second most important position in a total of 11 out of 15 UN specialized agencies. A number that shows how China has been growing and dominating spaces in the most important multilateral organizations.
In that sense, 2020 has been revealing. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the diametrically opposed outcomes of Taiwan and China’s efforts, it was expected that the island would have a higher impact on agencies such as the World Health Organization because of its successes in combating the virus despite being next to the first epicenter. But the opposite happened: the WHO sided with China throughout the pandemic and never heeded recommendations or calls from Taipei. This situation, among many other reasons, led to the United States’ decision to withdraw from the WHO.
The controversies are diverse. Taiwan warned the WHO by mail of a new virus before China announced the first infections. Additionally, Taiwanese success was made invisible to the media. As if that was not enough, the island was not invited to be part of the most important health events of the year. This has raised several questions, not only about the organizations but also regarding the Chinese regime, which, for the first time, was accused by multiple Western powers of harming the world. German, British, and American intelligence agencies openly pointed out China’s responsibility for the first wave of coronavirus infections on the planet.
Prelude to a Cold War
The Asia Times also reveals the characteristics of the fighters acquired by Taiwan, noting that “Taiwan’s F-16s will be equipped with top-of-the-line fire control radar manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corp. These radars, called APG-83, would allow guided munitions to be fired with great accuracy at longer distances. Taiwan seeks to improve and upgrade its defenses with more sophisticated and developed ships with this purchase. The publication also noted that Morocco is buying some 24 aircraft in the first tranche of 90.
We must not forget the context. Beijing has destroyed Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” model and has threatened to destroy the freedoms of Taipei if they attempt to move closer to independence. So Taiwan strengthening its defenses with more modern weapons promises to further escalate the diplomatic conflict. The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated great determination in crushing its internal threats.
We must also remember a key point in this transaction and it has more to do with political decisions and campaign promises: Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, who won re-election in January this year, pushed a government proposal to increase the total national defense budget by 5.2 %.
Although the negotiation between the two countries to seal the agreement took a long time, and even went through many upheavals and came close to falling apart, the acceleration of the same pact makes perfect sense because it suits both governments: Tsai Ing manages to fulfill a government proposal, while Trump gives a message to China and backs its foreign policy as strength of his administration. Both Taipei and Washington succeed in strengthening their relations as allies.