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U.S. lawmakers support sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan

2019/08/17 13:05:42

Photo from facebook.com/lockheedmartin

Washington, Aug. 16 (CNA) Several U.S. Congress members voiced their support Friday for a plan by the Donald Trump administration to sell new F-16 fighter jets valued at US$8 billion to Taiwan.

One of the U.S. lawmakers who lent support for the arms sale, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, commended the U.S. administration for moving forward with the sale to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities.

"As the Chinese government and Communist Party seeks to extend its authoritarian reach in the region, it is critical that the United States continue to enhance our strategic relationship with our democratic partner Taiwan through regular and consistent support," Rubio said in a statement.

"This move is an important step in support of Taiwan's self-defense efforts, and I urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee to quickly advance this critical arms sale," Rubio added.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) made a request to the U.S. in late February to purchase 66 F-16Vs. Progress seemed to be stalled earlier this year as the Trump administration did not inform Congress of the proposed arms sale before Congress went into recess July 26.

Citing U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter, Washington Post reported Friday that the U.S. State Department had submitted the package to Congress for informal review late Thursday.

Joining Rubio, Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John Cornyn, praised the sale of the F-16 models to Taiwan.

"The sale of the F-16 aircraft will help Taiwan maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and field a capable, modern fighter fleet -- all the more important to deter aggression, given Beijing's increasing assertiveness and military buildup," the two senators said in a joint statement.

"We commend President Trump and his administration for their support of Taiwan and a free and open Indo-Pacific region," they said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul and Chairman Eliot Engel expressed a similar view on the arms sale.

"The sale of F-16s to Taiwan sends a strong message about the U.S. commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific," the two House Representatives said.

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, was quoted by state-owned Xinhua news agency as saying Friday that Beijing had made solemn representations to Washington over the sale plan.

Hua urged the U.S. to stop selling weapons to and making any military contacts with Taiwan, or the Chinese government would "certainly take countermeasures," Xinhua said.

According to AFP, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the sophisticated fighter jets, said the newest of the F-16 version, the F-16 Block 70/72, is equipped with advanced features such as avionics, weapons and radar technologies that did not exist in earlier models when they were created.

Taiwan purchased a fleet of old F-16 models in 1992 and between the purchase and now, these jets have undergone several upgrades.

Taiwan's Air Force said on its Facebook page Friday that it is planning a new F-16V fighter wing when the new jets are acquired, as it is the most battle-ready type of fighter for Taiwan, considering that personnel can be quickly re-trained and logistics will be very efficient, as Taiwan already has 144 F-16 A/Bs in service.

In July, the U.S. Department of State approved the sale of a package of weapons to Taiwan worth US$2.2 billion that includes M1A2T Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles, a move that also triggered a strong response from Beijing.

(By Hsu Cheng-jui, Chang Yu-chi and Frances Huang)
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