White House Will Sell New F-16 Fighter Aircraft for Taiwan
The White House said on Friday that Taiwan does have a legitimate need for new fighter planes to counter the expanding gap with China's military.
The U.S. pleged to sell the country an undetermined number of new aircraft. This change in policy could spark a new crisis in the relationship with China as Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithneer are planning to visit China May 3 and 4 for the fourth round of U.S.-China Economic and Security Dialogue.
The policy change was part of a deal with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to get the senator to release his hold on the confirmation of Mark Lippert for the position of top Pentagon official for Asia, according to a story appearing in the magazine The Cable. This nomination had been held up since October over the issue of the fighter planes sale to Taiwan. China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft while Taiwan's air force has 490.
While the White House did not explicitly promise to sell Taiwan new F-16 jets as the senator wanted, it did promise to give the matter serious consideration. It pleged an undetermined number of new aircraft and that Lippert would use the U.S. –Taiwan Defense Review Talks for a complete review of Taiwan's long-term defense strategy.
Lockheed Martin builds F-16s mainly in Cornyn's home state of Texas.
To avoid friction with China over the arms issue, the U.S. had previously agree to upgrade Taiwan's fleet of older F-16 A/B aircraft, and the administration told Cornyn as recently as February that the fighter upgrade meets Taiwan's current needs. The White House's new position changes this.
Source: US Defence News - May 1, 2012 (defense.gov)
Photo: The Taiwan Air Force F-16A Fighting Falcon Block 20 Fighter Aircraft