F-16 Decision Still "Open" - Donald Rumsfeld in Taiwan
Since President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in Taiwan in 2008, his administration has been requesting to buy 66 F-16 C/D fighter jets from the United States - Taiwan’s only arms supplier.
So far, the answer has been no, with the US recently announcing it will upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of 146 F-16 A/Bs as part of a 5.8-billion dollar arms package.
But President Ma is not giving up. In a speech on the Republic of China’s national day, he emphasized the threat Chinese communist forces still pose to Taiwan. On Tuesday, Ma received former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was in Taiwan for the National Day celebrations. He clarified again his stance that Taiwan still wants to buy the more advanced F-16 C/D model.
[Ma Ying-jeou, President, Republic of China (Taiwan)]:
“Our fleet of F5 E series fighter jets are already old, so we must replace them. We still hope the US will sell us the F-16 C/D fighter jet. Our motive is not to use them for any kind of attack, but just to protect Taiwan.”
According to a report by Washington-based political news paper ‘The Hill,’ the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office - Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington - has been employing at least nine lobbying firms and law firms to persuade US lawmakers to support the sale, spending over $1-million in lobbying fees this year.
On his visit to Taipei, Rumsfeld gives the impression that all that lobbying may not have been totally in vain. He says the final decision on the F-16 C/D sale may still be open for debate.
[Donald Rumsfeld, Former US Defense Secretary]:
“The balance and the role of the United States and the role of Taiwan has been something that’s been discussed and debated over a good many years, there are stresses and strains and ups and downs and whether each agree. In this case, the only thing I can add would be, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that the final decision on the F-16 C/Ds has been made. I think it’s open.”
The issue places the United States in a tricky situation, balancing its relations with Chinese leaders, who react furiously to any arms sale to Taiwan, and its treaty-bound obligation to defend the self-ruled island.
While Rumsfeld was in Taiwan, Ma honored him with the Order of Brilliant Star, for his political achievements and continued support for Taiwan.
Source: Oct 12 2011 - Asia Pacific - http://english.ntdtv.com
Photo: Taiwan Air Force F-16's (http://www.asianews.it)