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Now's the time for Taiwan to request F-16 C/Ds: council head

2012/05/01 11:59:56

Washington, April 30 (CNA) The time is right for Taiwan to request price and availability data for F-16 C/D fighters again, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the head of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, said Monday.

Hammond-Chambers said it was an "excellent time" when asked if Taiwan should again push to acquire advanced F-16 C/D fighters from the United States, after having been rejected in the past.

Giving him optimism was a letter from White House assistant Robert L. Nabors which said the United States will consider a proposal to sell new fighter jets to Taiwan as one of the options to resolve the disparity in numbers of fighters across the Taiwan Strait.

The letter came in response to a letter by Republic Senator John Cornyn of Texas that urged U.S. President Barack Obama to address the quantitative imbalance in Taiwan's and China's fighter fleets.

Taipei, whose fleet of F-16 A/B fighters is aging, has repeatedly asked Washington to sell it F-16 C/D jet fighters, to no avail.

In September 2011, the U.S. approved the sale of a retrofit and training package for F-16 A/B fighters worth an estimated US$5.85 billion instead of offering new F-16 C/D fighters, but Taiwan still covets the more advanced fighters to narrow the gap with China.

The council said last week that the more recent White House letter differs significantly from the Obama administration's earlier response to Cornyn's concerns over the arms issue.

For example, in a letter dated Feb. 15, the U.S. Department of Defense said "we believe the F-16 A/B upgrade effectively meets Taiwan's current needs," the council said.

Hammond-Chambers also expressed the hope that an upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, scheduled to open May 4, will not affect a potential F-16 C/D sale to Taiwan.

(By Lin Shu-yuan and Lilian Wu)
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