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Taiwan urges U.S. to continue arms sales

2012/05/08 21:20:52

Taipei, May 8 (CNA) The United States is urged to continue supplying Taiwan with defensive weapons, which will help maintain the peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan's defense ministry said Tuesday, one day after a meeting between U.S. and Chinese defense ministers.

Once the U.S. continues to supply such weapons, Taiwan "will be more confident in engaging mainland China," which will lead to stable development of Taiwan-China relations, defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said.

Luo's remarks came in the wake of a statement by a senior U.S. defense official that Washington's arms sales to Taipei are often on the agenda of exchanges between defense officials from the U.S. and China.

Washington follows the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to sell Taipei weapons to help it maintain adequate defense, and a recent White House letter to U.S. Republican Senator John Cornyn was in line with U.S. policy on the issue, the U.S. official said.

In response to a written request by Cornyn, the White House said in the letter that the U.S. 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 U.S. official's remarks came before a two-hour meeting between Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on Monday.

Echoing the official's remarks, Luo said it is a consistent U.S. policy to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons based on the TRA and Six Assurances.

The TRA, enacted in 1979 when Washington and Taipei severed ties, obliges the U.S. to help Taiwan defend itself.

In 1982, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Taiwan six assurances, which included a promise that the U.S. would not set a date for termination of arms sales to Taiwan.

Taipei, whose fleet of F-16 A/B fighters is aging, has repeatedly asked Washington to sell it F-16 C/D jet fighters.

In September 2011, the U.S. approved the sale of a retrofit and training package for F-16 A/B fighters at an estimated cost of US$5.85 billion.

However, Taiwan is still eager to acquire the more advanced F-16 C/D fighters to narrow the air-power gap with China.

(By Elaine Hou)