The Spectacle Blog

Hillary on F-16s for Taiwan: We’ll Tell You in October

By on 7.21.11 | 11:27PM

Regarding an issue discussed here last week, an update from WashingtonPost.com's Checkpoint Washington blog:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised a decision soon on whether the U.S. will sell new fighter jets to Taiwan.

The move is part of a deal with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who had been holding up the confirmation of Clinton's new deputy in a bid to force a decision on the sale of the fighter jets. An aide to Cornyn said Clinton called the senator on Wednesday, while she was on a state visit to India, to offer the deal.

In his agreement with Clinton, Cornyn promised he would allow a full Senate vote on the confirmation of William J. Burns as deputy secretary of state. In exchange, Clinton will announce by Oct. 1 what jets, if any, the Obama administration will offer to Taiwan. Clinton also said she would on Oct. 1 release a report, required by Congress, that assesses whether Taiwan's air force needs the jets.

The post goes on to quote the president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, who speculates that the administration is probably going to offer upgrades to Taiwan's existing older-model jets rather than allowing the new order that Taipei wants. That would keep relations with Beijing relatively cordial in the short term. But in the long term, letting the balance of power tip too far in favor of the mainland -- and forcing a future administration to comply with the Taiwan Relations Act without the option of new F-16s (production will end in a couple years with no new orders, remember) -- might pave the way for a Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis. This would, to put it mildly, not constitute smart diplomacy.

(This item originally got Mr. Hammond-Chambers's first name wrong, and has been corrected.)

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