US to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16 jet: legislator
AFPTAIPEI--The United States is expected to announce soon it will help Taiwan to upgrade its current F-16 fighter planes rather than selling it more advanced aircraft, a senior Taipei legislator said Sunday.
July 4, 2011, 11:26 pm TWN
The move to upgrade the F-16 A/B combat aircraft rather than sell the nation the more advanced F-16 C/Ds it wants will generate less pressure from Beijing, which strongly opposes any arms sales to Taiwan, analysts say.
“This will be a compromise deal,” Lin Yu-fang — the convener of parliament's defense committee, who has twice visited Washington in the past two years to handle arms deals — told AFP.
Taiwan has repeatedly pressed the United States to sell it F-16 C/Ds, as China embarks on a rapid drive to build up its offensive military capability.
But such a sale would ignite anger from Beijing, which reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a US$6.4-billion arms package for the self-governing island.
That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan's F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.
U.S. lawmakers across party lines last month urged Obama to sell Taiwan the new-generation jets, with some accusing the administration of showing deference to China.
“The United States is anticipated to make the decision (on the F-16s) within the next two to three months. The Obama administration certainly won't want to see the arms deal become an issue during his election campaign for the second term,” Lin said.
Taiwan has governed itself since China's civil war ended in 1949, but Beijing still considers it part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
The remarks came as the American Institute in Taiwan — the de facto U.S. embassy there — confirmed that Kin Moy, soon to become deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan affairs, had visited last week, local media reported.
Moy met President Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the leading opposition Democratic Progressive Party, the Taipei-based Apple Daily said.
Ma has worked to improve ties with China since he was elected in 2008 but has also repeatedly urged Washington to sell Taiwan the F-16 C/D jets, saying they are crucial to maintaining the island's self-defense capacity.