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U.S. congress to continue pushing for advanced arms sales to Taiwan

2012/05/21 18:53:33

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) The United States Congress will continue to push for sales of advanced weapons to Taiwan to meet its defense needs, a senior congresswoman pledged in Taipei Monday.

The U.S. Congress has expressed its desire to supply Taiwan with the most sophisticated military hardware, including F-16 C/D jet fighters and diesel submarines, said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, before a luncheon with Foreign Minister Timothy Yang.

Ros-Lehtinen is heading a 21-member congressional delegation that is in Taiwan to discuss bilateral ties and congratulate President Ma Ying-jeou on his inauguration for a second term. The group will wrap up its three-day visit Tuesday.

The visit by the delegation came after the U.S. House passed an amendment late last week ordering the government to sell at least 66 F-16 C/D jet fighters to Taiwan.

"Some of us are gonna continue pushing to make sure that we sell to Taiwan, a strong economic partner, the best, most sophisticated military hardware that Taiwan needs to protect herself," Ros-Lehtinen said.

Taiwan, whose fleet of F-16 A/B fighters is aging, has repeatedly asked to purchase F-16 C/D multi-role combat aircraft from the U.S., to no avail.

Asked about concerns over Taiwan's defense budgets, Ros-Lehtinen said she encouraged Taiwan to "beef up its allotment for its defense allocations." "We think it's in the best interest of Taiwan; it's also in the best interest of the U.S. to make that encouraging nod," she said.

The delegation also met with the president earlier in the day and exchanged views on the statement of "one country, two areas" to describe Taiwan-China relations, Ros-Lehtinen said.

According to Ma, the concept is consistent with the country's constitution, and the country refers to the Republic of China, while the areas mean Taiwan and mainland China.

Opposition parties in Taiwan have opposed the "one country, two areas" formula, saying it undermines Taiwan's sovereign status.

Ros-Lehtinen said U.S. congressmen have different opinions on the issue but indicated that the U.S. cannot decide for Taiwan the best strategy to pursue.

"I would say that our concerns have always been that we want Taiwan to remain the beacon" of freedom, she said.

(By Elaine Hou)
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