One of the best bits of wisdom in life is that one should not trample old friends in the haste to make new ones. America should remember that advice and fully live up to its obligations to Taiwan.

The island democracy, the Republic of China that celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, is continually threatened by the communist government on the mainland. Despite a U.S. pledge to maintain its security, every new sale of arms to Taiwan becomes a football among agencies that don’t wish to antagonize the mainland, which has never given up the idea of taking over the island.

The Obama administration agreed to sell a $5.85 billion arms package to Taiwan. It upgrades the island’s aging fighter jets. But the administration put on hold sale of more advanced versions of the F-16 fighters, and Republicans promptly criticized President Barack Obama for violating the principle cited above about old friends.

The Republicans are right, although every administration goes through the same kind of diplomatic hand-wringing that marks this decision.

No one wants to antagonize the Chinese communists needlessly. But they will find cause for offense whatever we do; sale of new fighters would be good business in a slow economy, and the entire reason for the new fighters is caused by mainland belligerence against Taiwan.

We would urge the U.S. administration to back up the self-defense needs of the Chinese democracy. Put Taiwan arms sales on a regular schedule and promise to make them consistent with the highest-quality defense force. That would avoid this regular diplomatic dispute within the U.S. government, and would put the mainland communists on notice that a cost of doing business with the United States is the preservation of the independence of our old friends.