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Not sold on F-16 diplomacy

November 15, 2009

Re "How a few F-16s can buy peace in the Taiwan Strait," Opinion, Nov. 11

In recommending that the United States leverage not selling F-16 jets to Taiwan for better U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, professor Dennis V. Hickey overlooks three key points.

First, the U.S. has formally assured Taipei that Washington will not hold prior consultations with Beijing regarding arms sales to Taiwan.

Second, although it would be a significant and welcome gesture if China pulled back missiles aimed at Taiwan, Beijing could easily redeploy those missiles whenever it wanted.

Third, the U.S. has a legal commitment to Taiwan's defense and a strategic interest in a stable balance across the Taiwan Strait.

For these reasons, the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan should be based on consultations between Washington and Taipei. Beijing has the ability to positively influence the decision-making process -- by willingly reducing its military posture toward Taiwan.

Doing so could facilitate a landmark summit between the presidents of China and Taiwan, without the United States cutting deals that might hurt more than help.

Leif-Eric Easley

Los Angeles

The author is an Asian international relations specialist at USC.

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