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Defense ministry welcomes U.S. position on new jet fighters

2012/04/28 22:18:32

Taipei, April 28 (CNA) Taiwan welcomes any action that would help enhance its defense capabilities, the Ministry of National Defense said Saturday after learning that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had promised to consider selling new jet fighters to Taiwan to help redress the disparity in air power across the Taiwan Strait.

“Taiwan appreciates proposals aimed at helping to promote and enhance its defense capabilities,” Luo Shou-he, the ministry’s spokesman told CNA.

In a letter to Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas Friday, the White House said that the idea of selling of new jets to Taiwan warrants “serious consideration, given the growing military threat toTaiwan.”

“We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490,” wrote Robert Nabors, a White House aide and director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.

Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang suggested that it is a time for Taiwan’s defense ministry to inquire about the possibility of submitting a letter of request (LoR) for new F-16 C/D fighter jets.

Taipei has been anxious to procure new jets to replace older ones, but Washington has been reluctant to accept an LoR “for difficult reasons,” said Lin, a member of the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

The negotiations on arms sales could take as long as two to three years, he said, implying that the U.S will probably want to finish upgrading Taiwan’s existing F-16 A/B jet fighter fleet before moving on.

Last September, the U.S. and Taiwan reached a US$5.85 billion arms sales deal to upgrade the island’s F-16 A/Bs. However, the U.S said Taiwan’s request to procure F-16 C/Ds was still under review.

(By Nancy Liu)