Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rumsfeld on Taiwan Arms Deal

In a 23 August Defense Department Regular Briefing, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke about Taiwan's planned purchase of American arms. Based on the text of this recent press conference, one might expect him to have been wearing a TAIWANATION bracelet and a 908 Taiwan shirt.

While speaking of the ROC arms purchase that has been languishing in the Legislative Yuan due to Pan Blue stonewalling, Rumsfeld commented:
I've always believed that countries -- sovereign nations have to do what they decide to do. [emphasis added]

I think that comment speaks for itself, as anyone reading MeiZhongTai will undoubtedly understand the ramifications of calling Taiwan a country, and thus I will address his statements on the arms deal.

When asked if a failure to purchase the proposed arms would undermine America's commitment to Taiwan (something previously alluded to by one of Rumsfeld's deputies, Richard Lawless), Rumsfeld replied that arms purchases--or a lack thereof--do not alter America's obligation to aid Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act. Here is Secretary Rumsfeld's entire quote in context:
I've always believed that countries -- sovereign nations have to do what they decide to do. It's up to them to do it. We make our positions known, and our position is known with the Taiwan Relations Act. And we have an obligation under that act to work with Taiwan on fulfilling security and arms sale provisions of that act. If they decide not to or if they decide to do so, that's up to them.

The reporter followed up by asking if Taiwan was a "free rider" or if the government of Taiwan was displaying "a lack of seriousness" toward national defense. Rumsfeld, opting not to criticize a friend in front of company, replied:
I think if I wanted to communicate something to the government of Taiwan, I would find a better place to do it than here.

This does really seem to call into question the idea that Taiwan should purchase these weapons as a form of protection money or even a bus fare. It also counters the idea that Washington is sending "increasingly stiff warning signals."