Taipei, May 2 (CNA) Taiwan needs advanced F-16 C/D jet fighters, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang said Wednesday in the wake of a promise by the United States to consider selling new fighters to Taiwan.
Taipei needs F-16 C/Ds, despite Washington's agreement to an F-16 A/B retrofit package last year, Yang told the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Last September, the U.S. and Taiwan reached a US$5.85 billion deal to upgrade the country's 145 aging F-16 A/B fleet, which has been in service for more than a decade.
The key elements of the retrofit package include the advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array and the AIM-9X air-to-air missile, neither of which are provided in some F-16 C/D models.
"If the U.S. agrees to sell Taiwan the jets, then the country will ask for F-16 C/Ds with better equipment," he said, adding that this would enhance the nation's air combat capability.
However, ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Yu-fang said during a session break that "what we really need is the F-35 jet."
Lin admitted that this would be difficult to achieve because "lots of countries are waiting in line," citing Japan and South Korea as Asian countries also seeking the advanced jets.
In a telephone interview with CNA, Tsai Huang-liang, an opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker, noted that there "is a long way to go" before the U.S. sells even the F-16 C/Ds, let alone F-35s, to Taiwan.
"The U.S. will consider China's attitude when making decisions regarding the issue, and China, on the other hand, will undoubtedly do everything it can to stop any such deal from going ahead," he pointed out.
Legislator Ma Wen-chun, meanwhile, urged the government to closely examine a letter written by the White House to Republican Senator John Cornyn on jet sales to Taiwan and to look for possibilities for purchasing new planes.
In the letter, the White House said that the idea of selling new jets to Taiwan warrants "serious consideration, given the growing military threat to Taiwan."
"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.
(By Nancy Liu)