80. Memorandum From Michel Oksenberg of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Joint State–Defense Memoranda on Arms Sales to the ROC


Several months ago, I became concerned that we did not appear to have a coherent arms sales policy to Taiwan, and that we appeared to be making a series of ad hoc decisions on separate arms sales without any overall view of the type of military posture we wished the ROC to possess over the next few years. I therefore requested State and Defense to submit a memorandum to you on arms sales to the ROC.

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At Tab A is the quite good study they have submitted.2 I chaired a meeting February 28 to discuss the paper, to surface State–Defense differences, and to identify next steps in deciding on sales.3

The core issues as far as hardware are concerned are that:

—The ROC F–100s and F–104s are aging and will have to be replaced within the next four years if Taiwan is to maintain an adequate air defense against China’s growing jet fighter capability.

—The ROC must acquire some kind of response to the PRC’s growing naval capability, particularly to counter the threat posed by 185 PRC ships and missile attack boats armed with the Styx missile—a missile with a 25 nautical mile range.

—The ROC must acquire an enhanced ASW capability to deter Peking’s gradually increasing capability to impose a blockade of the island.

The threats which we wish the ROC to feel confident it can deter are:

—An invasion attempt.

—A blockade.

—Excessive PRC air and naval patrolling of the Taiwan Strait.

At the same time, we do not wish to so arm the ROC that we do damage to our relations with the PRC or that we encourage the ROC to behave without restraint toward the PRC. In short, our arms sales must be carefully calibrated to maintain an adequate balance in the Strait.


Go forward on some sales. Against this background, State, DOD, and I agreed that appropriate authorization should be sought for immediate U.S. sale of the following five weapon systems: (1) 150 M–48 A–1 unserviceable tanks for cannibalization; (2) 100 155mm self-propelled Howitzers; (3) 100 8-inch Howitzers; (4) four PPS–43 mobile radar systems; and (5) a low-altitude aircraft detection system.

All of these systems marginally improve Taiwan’s land armaments and air defense control systems.


That you approve our going forward with these sales.4

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NSC Delay on Hawk Missile Sale. State and DOD approve the sale of a third Hawk anti-aircraft missile battalion. Such a sale will require Presidential approval and notification of Congress. This large sale makes eminent sense in terms of Taiwan’s defense needs. I wish, however, to hold this sale for awhile, to consider whether we should approve several major sales together (others are discussed below) as a more dramatic way of underscoring to Taipei, Peking, and the American public our commitment to the maintenance of an adequate defense of Taiwan even as we move forward on normalization.5


That you approve my temporary holding up of the Hawk missile sale. No security questions arise from a short delay.6

State and DOD disagree strongly at this point on two major issues:

What airplanes to sell Taiwan as the F–100s and F–104s are phased out. DOD is for the F–4, State is for the F–5E.

What system to sell to Taiwan to counter the Styx missile. DOD is for the Harpoon, State is for equipping F–5Es with a Maverick missile.

I have asked State and DOD to develop options on these two issues, searching for intermediate compromise solutions as well as the two “pure” each agency advocates.

I was asked whether the decision on these two issues would ultimately go to you, Cy, and Harold, and perhaps even to the President. I stated that I thought we should proceed on that assumption.


That you agree that I inform State and DOD that the major arms sales items to Taiwan—planes and major missile systems—would be the subject of decision at the Secretarial or Presidential level.6

Les Denend concurs.7 You should be aware that the self-propelled Howitzers and 8-inch Howitzers total approximately $150 million, all of which would count toward the ceiling. We are likely to encounter problems in fitting these sales into the FY 78 total.8

  1. Source: Carter Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 42, PRM–24 [2]. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. A note at the top of the page reads, “See DA note p. 3.” See footnote 8 below.
  2. Attached; printed as an attachment to Document 78.
  3. See Document 82.
  4. Brzezinski approved this recommendation and wrote, “but not immediately. Later in the spring.”
  5. Inderfurth underlined “a more dramatic way of underscoring” and in the margin wrote, “Some use should be made of the announcement politically & within the context of the normalization process with the PRC. RI.”
  6. Brzezinski approved this recommendation.
  7. Brzezinski approved this recommendation.
  8. Denend initialed above this sentence. After the sentence, Inderfurth wrote, “with the 3 recommendations Mike makes. Rick.”
  9. Someone, probably Aaron, underlined the last sentence of the paragraph. At the bottom of the page, he wrote, “ZB—You better worry about the timing of these moves. DA.”