According to reports last week, Taiwan is about to buy some serious American steel to update its defenses against China.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou ordered the country’s defense ministry to draft a draw up a shopping list of weapons that include MK-54 torpedoes, dozens of M1A2 tanks and amphibious landing vehicles.
If acquired, the Taipei daily reported, the torpedoes will be used to replace Taiwan’s aging MK-46s.
The decision comes despite an easing of tense relations between China and Taiwan in recent years.
The move also follows a decision by the Taiwan government to press ahead with a controversial $6.4 billion purchase of U.S. missiles, helicopters and ships despite the public stated wrath of China. The package includes an estimated 60 Black Hawk helicopters, 114 Patriot air-defense missiles and supplies for Taiwan’s aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets.
Until the last few years, a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan provided a lot of fodder for commentary. This 2003 editorial by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan is typical of what we used to see. In it, we’re told that it is extremely important for the United States to make bold rhetorical commitments to Taiwanese democracy, to speak loudly about the big stick you are carrying.
But if Taiwan and China go through another round of updating their armaments, is this kind of rhetorical commitment (and implicit military commitment) even worth talking about? Neither China nor the U.S. want to test each other over Taiwan. But no amount of American bluster can possibly conceal how overstretched our military has become. It seems that showy displays of our resolve are more likely to invite a test. And we can’t afford that now.