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New F-16s mark new beginning of Air Force: president

2019/08/21 17:11:12

Taipei, Aug. 21 (CNA) The possible U.S. sale of advanced F-16 C/D aircraft to Taiwan marks a new beginning of the nation's Air Force, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Wednesday, after the U.S. officially notified Congress of the deal, which is expected to take effect in one month.

"The deal means the nation's brand new Air Force is about to take off," Tsai said in her official Line account.

Taiwan's military will continue to expand its fighter wings and strengthen its personnel training to boost its air defense capabilities, she added.

The president expressed optimism that with the upcoming inclusion of the more advanced fighter jets, the nation will have more confidence in facing security challenges in the future, which will also contribute to further ensuring cross-Taiwan Strait and regional stability.

In a Facebook post, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) lauded the sale as testament that both countries are "in their best relations ever."

The last time the U.S. sold Taiwan fighter jets was in 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush announced the sale of 150 F-16 A/B jets to the country, according to Su.

To boost its defense capabilities, Taiwan has been calling on the U.S. to sell more advanced fighter jets since 2003, but Washington has never given its nod until now, he added.

The U.S. announcement marks a major diplomatic achievement for Taiwan under Tsai's leadership, he noted.

The premier also announced that the Executive Yuan will be drafting a special defense budget to cover the latest arms package, although the bill will have to clear the Legislative floor first.

The two major political parties in Taiwan, namely Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Wednesday both welcomed the possible sale.

KMT caucus whip Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) told CNA that the party will most likely approve the special budget, as the new jets will elevate the country's defense capability.

Meanwhile, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official ties, said that the latest notification "is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, and our support for Taiwan's ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on its website Tuesday that it had notified Congress of the possible sale of 66 F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets, known as the F-16V, after Taiwan's request for the planes was approved by the U.S. State Department.

According to the DSCA, the US$8 billion package also involves 75 F110 General Electric engines for the single-engine fighter, the same quantity of Link-16 Systems and other related equipment.

(By Ku Chuan, Fan Cheng-hsiang, Elaine Hou and Joseph Yeh)
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