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Taiwan Concerned U.N. Trade Talks Could Undercut U.S. Imports

Jun. 15, 2012 - 11:40AM   |  
By Wendell Minnick   |   Comments
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TAIPEI — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised concerns over scheduled negotiations in July for a new United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that could cripple U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

The U.S. is Taiwan’s sole source for sophisticated arms, such as fighter jets and command-and-control systems. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed all overseas offices to gather data on ATT developments, said Lily Hsu, the ministry’s director-general of international organizations.

The ATT would require signatories to control their imports and exports of arms and not to circumvent the import control systems of other countries.

Since China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, it could argue that the U.S. must no longer provide arms under the new ATT rules, said Dean Cheng, a China specialist at the Heritage Foundation.

The ATT uses terminology from the U.N. Charter to reaffirm “the right of all States to territorial integrity,” Cheng said. The ATT provides the basis for Beijing to make a legal argument that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan circumvent China’s import-control system, and violate China’s territorial integrity as stipulated under the ATT.

However, not everyone in Taiwan is spooked by ATT. Alexander Huang, defense analyst based here, sees no “immediate disturbance of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s arms procurement process is for “regular replacement of obsolete systems and for purely defensive purposes, and will not upset regional balance.” Therefore, it should escape ATT regulations, he said.

The ATT was first proposed in 2006 in the U.N. as an international framework for regulating trade in conventional arms. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will monitor the situation, but there are difficulties since Taiwan is not a U.N. member.

The ATT would also conflict with the 1979 U.S. Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which guarantees the U.S. will continue to provide arms and assistance.

The TRA was created after the U.S. announced its decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Since then, Beijing has attempted to create a legal framework to isolate Taiwan on the world stage. Except for the U.S., no other country supplies arms or military assistance to Taiwan.

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