US silent on sale of F-16C/D fighters
Taiwan's military yesterday said it has not received related information that the United States government will soon announce its decision on whether or not to sell the country 66 F-16C/D fighter jets in 10 days.
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) also refused to comment that the U.S. State Department had reportedly declined for the first time to address an annual U.S.-Taiwan industry conference on defense and security ties.
Military spokesman Lo Shao-ho only confirmed that the MND is sending one of its deputy defense ministers to the annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference 2011 to be held Sept. 19-20, in Richmond, Virginia. But he did not give the minister's name.
“We will take this opportunity to request for new F-16C/Ds and upgrading its F-16A/Bs and diesel submarines and other items,” Lo told reporters yesterday.
Lo's comment came amid a Reuters report dated Saturday, Sep. 14, which quoted a event organizer as saying that the State Department has for the first time decided not to sent one of its senior officials to speak at the upcoming event.
The State Department has sent senior officials to make addresses for the past nine years, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
”It's certainly a disappointment,” he said, although a senior Pentagon official will address the conference, the report said.
The State Department has so far not made comment regarding their absence from the annual gathering.
According to Taiwan's Defense White Paper, the annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference held in America is an official bilateral military exchange channel.
The yearly event, attended by MND officials and featuring speeches made by their U.S. counterparts, was launched to address Washington's defense cooperation with Taipei.
It was also reportedly attended by many American defense contractors with the purpose of promoting sales of arms to Taiwan.
US to announce F-16 sale: report
The absence of the U.S. State Department in the conference came only 10 days before the Obama administration is due to make known its policy on Taiwan's request to buy 66 late-model F-16 fighter planes, the report said.
Taiwan first asked to buy new F-16s in 2006 after approving substantial funding for the aircraft.
But the U.S. has repeatedly denied Taiwan's request.
The U.S. planes are expected to replace the Taiwan air force's aging F-5F Tigers and Mirage 2000-5s due for retirement within five to 10 years.
The call for the U.S. to sell new jets resurfaced in the past few days after two military jets crashed in northeastern Taiwan on Tuesday.
Legislators had been urging the U.S. to sell F-16C/D fighters as soon as possible so that the air force can take the old aircraft out of service.
Source: Friday, September 16, 2011 11:30 pm TWN, By Joseph Yeh, The China Post - www.chinapost.com.tw