The third quarter of 2011 ended with the long-awaited – as well as repeatedly and seriously delayed – U.S. Government decision on the sale of F-16 fighters to Taiwan. More precisely, the U.S. government notified to Congress its intention to provide to Taiwan a major package of mid-life modernization for its existing F-16A/B fighters – argued by the Obama Administration as being a better option than the sale of replacement F-16C/D fighters.
The U.S. side insists that they have not ruled out selling a new tranche of F-16s to replace aging equipment, and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has renewed calls for the new buy. Nevertheless, the controversial Obama Administration decision spoke volumes of the complex three-way dynamic between Washington, Taipei, and Beijing, and may herald a new reality that could soon confront Taiwan’s national security establishment.
In the meantime, everything related to Taiwan – including defense issues and cross-Strait relations – continues to take a backseat to, and merely serve as backdrop for, the campaigns ahead of the next joint presidential/legislative elections scheduled for January 14, 2012. In the presidential race, incumbent Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) faces opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen in what will be a hotly contested and close race. The addition of Peoples First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong to the contest adds a complicating factor for both candidates – but particularly for President Ma.
This quarterly analysis report provides a brief overview of significant developments in Taiwan during the past three months, and examines some of the factors that influenced the course of events during the third quarter of 2011. In addition to examining the current political environment in Taiwan, the report will look at defense policy, budget, and procurement issues. It will also provide an update on U.S.-Taiwan defense relations, and a look at the current status of select programs.