Top Taiwan officer visits US over jet deal: report
AFPTAIPEI, Taiwan — A top Taiwanese military officer is visiting the United States to press for the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the island, a deal that may irk giant neighbor China, it was reported yesterday.
October 5, 2010, 10:32 am TWN
Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang defended the proposed deal, saying Taiwan badly needed more up-to-date technology, in comments reported by the state Central News Agency.
“Many of the fighters now serving Taiwan's air force should have been retired long time ago. We hope the U.S. would sell Taiwan F-16C/Ds as soon as possible so that we can defend ourselves,” he said while attending the 2010 U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in Cambridge, Maryland.
The backbone of Taiwan's air force consists of some 60 ageing F-5s, 126 locally made Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), 146 U.S.-made F-16A/Bs and 56 French-made Mirages.
Ties between Taipei and Beijing have improved markedly since 2008 after Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power, but Beijing still refuses to renounce the possibility of using force should the island declare independence.
Ma has repeatedly called on Washington to sell Taipei the F-16C/Ds, saying sufficient weapons would make the island more confident in dealing with Beijing.
Washington early this year announced a weapons package for Taiwan that includes Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters, and equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.
Analysts have said they doubt Washington would risk angering Beijing by approving the more sensitive items like F-16 C/Ds and submarines.