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Taiwan reaffirms hope to buy F-16 C/Ds

2011/09/16 21:22:06

Taipei, Sept. 16 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Friday it will continue to seek U.S. consent to sell Taiwan advanced F-16 C/D jet fighters and diesel-electric submarines, as well as to upgrade its existing F-16 A/B fleet.

The reiteration came amid reports that U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to sell a new US$4.2 billion arms package to Taiwan that would likely include weapons and equipment to upgrade the island's F-16 A/B jets, but exclude F-16 C/D model aircraft.

The Washington Times cited the U.S. administration and congressional officials as reporting Thursday that President Obama has decided against selling Taiwan 66 advanced F-16 C/Ds, despite several requests from Taipei and Congress.

"The decision ends nearly two years of debate within the administration and Congress over whether to sell advanced strike aircraft," the U.S. newspaper said.

In response, MND spokesman Luo Shou-he said the MND has not yet received any information about the new arms package, saying that the United States has standard operating procedures in the arms trade and that the process is still ongoing.

"Anyway, we will continue to express our desire to acquire F-16 C/D fighters and diesel electric submarines and to have our F-16 A/B fleet retrofitted," Luo added.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said at a Legislative Yuan question-and-answer session earlier in the day that reports about F-16 fighter deals were just speculation.

Kao told lawmakers that the MND had tried to confirm the reports through the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan and Taiwan's representative office in Washington, D.C. Friday morning.

"To our knowledge, the reports were speculation," Kao said.

During the session, ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang asked Kao whether the MND has any alternative plan if the U.S. rejects the F-16 C/D deal and the aging F-5 fleet needs to be retired.

Kao responded that the Air Force is considering to either procure advanced training aircraft or develop a new line of fighters locally.

"But no decision has been made yet," Kao said, adding that the military has no plan to purchase trainers from South Korea.

(By Lu Hsin-hui, Chen Pei-huang and Sofia Wu)