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Taiwan-U.S. strategic alliances solid: MND

2019/04/16 15:48:47

Taipei, April 16 (CNA) Taiwan and the United States have solid strategic alliances that will grow closer with the continuation of bilateral cooperation, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Tuesday, following the U.S.' approval the previous day of the continuation of a military pilot training program for Taiwan.

Under the US$500 million program, the U.S. will continue to provide pilot training and maintenance and logistics support for F-16 aircraft currently at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said on its website Monday.

The agency said it has notified the U.S. Congress of the possible sale of training equipment, dummy training ammunition and other relevant supplies to Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), Taiwan's de facto embassy the U.S.

Commenting on the pilot training program, the MND said in a statement that Taiwanese F-16 pilots have long been training in the U.S., gaining experience and learning advanced warfare tactics.

The training will continue so as to maximize the F-16's combat effectiveness and maintain Taiwan's combat capability, the ministry said.

According to a source familiar with national security matters, the timing of the U.S. State Department's approval of the training package is of major significance, as the U.S. is moving toward normalizing arms sales to Taiwan, and highlights the closeness of the U.S.-Taiwan partnership.

In a departure from past practice, the U.S. administration has publicly announced that Taiwanese military pilots are being trained in the U.S., the source said.

Given that the U.S. usually only trains the standing forces of major allies like NATO members, its latest decision to continue the training of Taiwan fighter pilots signals its close military ties with Taiwan, the source said.

The latest round of military equipment sales to Taiwan, the third since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, shows that the U.S. attaches great importance to Taiwan's national defense security, the source said.

(By Matt Yu, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Chung Yu-chen)