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U.S. may announce F-16 upgrade deal with Taiwan soon: Defense News

2011/06/06 12:03:00

Washington, June 5 (CNA) The United States may allow itscontractors to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16 A/B jet fighters laterthis year or in 2012, according to a report carried in the latestissue of Defense News.

Cited analysts and pro-Taiwan lobbyists, the report said that theU.S. administration is expected to release the F-16 A/B upgradepackage as a strategy to ease pressure from Congress to sell moreadvanced 16 C/Ds to Taiwan.

The upgrade deal would bring Taiwan's F-16s to a standard broadlycomparable to the F-16AM/BM flown by European air forces, whichstarted life as F-16 A/Bs, the report said.

For a decade, Taiwan has been seeking a batch of F-16 C/Ds fromthe U.S. to upgrade its aging air arsenal. It remains unclear whetherTaiwan can acquire the 66 F-16 C/Ds it wants since China has made itclear that it considers such a deal a "red line" that the UnitedStates should not cross.

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the co-chairs of theSenate Taiwan Caucus, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and James Inhofe(R-Okla.) published in late May a letter signed by more than 40 oftheir colleagues urging the Obama administration to approve Taiwan'srequest to buy 66 F-16 C/D jets.

The Defense News also editorialized in its latest issue that theU.S. must sell Taiwan F-16 C/Ds to show its resolve to honor itscommitment to its allies.

"A critical question America regularly faces from its allies iswhether Washington will support them if they are threatened. And whenthe United States fails to support its allies, the world takes note,"the magazine said.

By furiously opposing the F-16 C/D deal, the editorial said,"China not only wants to weaken Taiwan, but also prompt Washington'sallies in Asia to question whether America will be there for them intimes of crisis."

Moreover, the editorial said, if the White House decides to blockthe sale, an emboldened Beijing may decide tomorrow that it doesn'twant America selling its wares to other regional allies -- Japan,Australia, South Korea and others.

Selling the jets to Taiwan is a way to reassure governments whohave questioned the U.S. commitment to the region and to remindBeijing that old alliances will not be traded away to appease abigger trading partner, the magazine said.

(By Zep Hu and Sofia Wu)
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