by WorldTribune Staff, March 14, 2017
The Obama administration blocked a $1 billion arms sale to Taiwan that was deemed important for the nation’s security on the same day then President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with Taiwan’s president, a report said.
Avril D. Haines, the Obama White House deputy national security adviser, blocked the arms sale on Dec. 3 despite approval from the State Department and Pentagon, according to Trump administration officials.
The phone call between Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 3 was the first time an American president or president-elect had spoken directly to Taiwan’s president in decades and prompted protests from Beijing, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province.
“The scuttling of the arms package was a setback for U.S. and Taiwanese efforts to bolster defenses against a growing array of Chinese missiles and other advanced weaponry deployed across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait,” the Washington Free Beacon reported on March 14.
The Trump administration has pledged to provide more and better defensive arms to Taiwan, but a new package is not expected to be made public until after Trump meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping next month.
White House officials said the meeting is set for early April at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
“There’s a process for these things that’s being followed,” a White House official said of the arms package. “The Trump administration takes America’s commitment to Taiwan’s security very seriously.”
Taiwan is expected to be a major topic of discussion when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits China later this month.
The approximately $1 billion deal that Obama blocked included parts and equipment needed for the Taiwan military’s ongoing modernization of its arsenal of 1980s-era F-16 jet fighters along with additional missiles, the Beacon report said.
Former Obama administration spokesman Ned Price confirmed that the Obama administration held up the arms package. He told the Washington Free Beacon that neither Haines nor others in the Obama White House “unilaterally blocked the package that was under discussions, which was relatively modest.”
“In consultation with State and DoD, the Obama administration decided not to move forward with it in the final days of the administration,” Price said, adding that one factor was that “we thought it would be a useful package for the next administration to pursue in their time because it was well-calibrated to strike the balance we typically try to achieve consistent with our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.”