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Obama administration considering sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan: congressman

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Obama Administration is considering whether to approve the sale of advanced F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan in a move to beef up its self-defense capability, a U.S. congressman said Thursday in Washington.

Steve Chabot, chair of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the U.S. House of Representatives, reportedly said Thursday that Washington is mulling whether to sell F-16C/Ds to Taipei and that Congress will very likely approve the sale, local media said yesterday.

Chabot made the comments at a committee Thursday during which its members unanimously passed the Taiwan Policy Act (TPA).

When asked by Taiwanese reporters to give more details on the possible arms deal, Chabot, however, refused to do so, saying that he has told media everything he knew, local media said.

Meanwhile, back in Taipei, asked to comment on the U.S. congressman's remark, military spokesman Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) said yesterday that the Defense Ministry has not received any official announcement from Washington on the possible F-16C/D sale.

But he stressed that the military will continue to make all necessary evaluations on what kind of weapons systems are needed to strengthen the nation's self-defense capabilities.

In September 2011 the U.S. approved the sale of a retrofit and training package for Taiwan's existing F-16A/B fighters but not the sale of new F-16C/Ds

The TPA was first introduced on Jan. 25 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and aimed to strengthen the relationship between Taiwan and the United States by introducing a number of new measures.

The bill would enhance military, diplomatic and economic links between the two countries, as well as support the enhancement of Taiwan's international presence.

TPA to Boost Bilateral Ties

One provision in the bill urged Washington to authorize the sale of F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan and to transfer decommissioned guided missile frigates to the nation.

Some other provisions in the bill include ceasing restrictions that currently limit Taiwanese leaders from meeting high-level officials of the U.S. government.

It called on the U.S. to come up with some form of an extradition treaty between the U.S. and Taiwan and the negotiation of a free trade agreement between both sides.

The bill also urged the U.S. to allow the Taipei Economic and Cultural Economic Office (TECRO), Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington, to display Taiwan's national flag on its premises, and to likewise grant the same right to AIT offices in Taiwan.

The bill has to be passed by both houses, and sent to the president for signing before it can become law.

The TPA was introduced during the previous 112th Congress and was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee but did not make it to the floor by the time Congress adjourned for the year in the fall of 2012.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Taipei yesterday expressed gratitude to the U.S. congressmen over the passage of the TPA.

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