With the Obama administration allowing Taiwan to upgrade its existing fleet of F-16s — but not allowing the sale of new F-16s that Taipei equested — China is protesting by cutting off some, but not all, military-to-military contacts. “Some in Washington believe that Beijing’s response to the arms sales announcement has been muted, potentially because the administration did not offer Taiwan the 66 new F-16 C/D model planes it had requested,” notes Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy. From a background briefing at the State Department yesterday:
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think they have indicated that they’re going to suspend or to cancel or postpone a series of mil-to-mil engagements, yes, military-to-military engagements.
QUESTION: But not – but nothing else, as far as you know?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Nothing at this juncture, but it’s not unusual that sometimes this takes more time than just a few days.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Other questions for [Senior State Department Official One]?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, please. Yeah.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you said mil-to-mil is going to be canceled?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, not all mil-to-mil. Some activities, as part of the military-to-military program, will be postponed, rescheduled or canceled. And as I indicated, it’s not unusual that some of those will come over time, not announced immediately.
To recap: Instead of cutting off all military-to-military contacts — the status quo that prevailed for most of 2010 — Beijing is instead cutting off some contacts, and the specifics aren’t even clear. This is the big prize the administration won by compromising on Taiwan’s defense and setting up a headache for a future president. Hooray for “smart power.”