F-16C/Ds left out of arms deal: AIT
CNA and ReutersRICHMOND, Virginia -- The quantity and composition of weapons to be sold by the United States to Taiwan in 2011 will not fall below the levels of previous years, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Tuesday. However Taiwan's request for next-generation F-16C/Ds fighter jets was declined.
September 22, 2011, 12:15 am TWN
Burghardt said this year's arms sales package would be as reported in the New York Times, which put its price tag at US$5.85 billion.
Earlier reports said the U.S. would agree to sell Taiwan US$4.2 billion in weapons this year, but later reports said the number of items to be sold to Taiwan in 2011 would exceed the original projection because other equipment, such as Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), would be included.
Moreover, the reports said the F-16A/B fighter jet engines that were deemed no longer suitable would also be replaced, driving this year's U.S. arms sales to nearly US$6 billion, close to the previous annual ceiling.
Burghardt said that the United States has made a decision on Taiwan's arms acquisition request, and described it as a move that would have a positive impact on bilateral relations.
He also said the U.S. approval of a package to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16A/B fleet did not mean there was no longer any opportunity to sell Taiwan the more advanced F-16C/D fighters it wants in the future.
The decision not to sell the F-16C/Ds was received with considerable disappointment in Taiwan, but Burghardt said arms deals involved complicated issues and were only one part of U.S.-Taiwan engagements.
He said the Obama administration was even more supportive of arms sales than the previous administration, with the total value of arms packages approved since Obama took office exceeding the amount recorded during George W. Bush's eight years as president.
Burghardt further explained that most of the F-16A/B retrofit project would be carried out in Taiwan, which he said would create a lot of jobs in Taiwan and improve its employment outlook.
Visa-Waiver Privileges Soon
Meanwhile, the top U.S. liaison officer with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties confirmed that the U.S. government will grant Taiwanese citizens visa-waiver privileges soon, which he said will symbolize further consolidation of bilateral ties.
Obama Notifies Congress
The Obama administration has notified Congress formally of the details of the F-16 upgrade package, requested by Taiwan in November 2009. Its broad outlines were briefed to foreign affairs committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Friday.
It has sought to thread various diplomatic, military and strategic needles in rolling out the package while trying to send targeted, sometimes conflicting, messages to Beijing, Taipei and the U.S. Congress.
In opting for the F-16 upgrade, President Barack Obama deferred Taiwan's long-standing request for 66 new late-model F-16C/D aircraft.
The punt on new F-16s may please Beijing even though it opposes all arms sales to Taipei as meddling in its home affairs. It may conclude that it had succeeded in deterring Washington from supplying the newer models.
Michael Pillsbury, a consultant to the Pentagon on Chinese leaders' perceptions of U.S. policies, said he feared that Beijing might ultimately conclude that the A/B upgrade would provide Taiwan even more capability than the new models.
“Their propensity to miscalculate us — what they call the 'hegemon' — is astonishing,” he said. “From Beijing's point of view, the F-16 game is not over yet.”
On Capitol Hill, Senator John Cornyn advanced his effort to mandate the sale of at least 66 new F-16C/D fighters to Taiwan as an amendment to the Generalized System of Preferences bill now being considered on the Senate floor.