Tai­wan F-16s

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion is di­vided over plans to sell Tai­wan ad­vanced F-16 jets, with the State De­part­ment op­pos­ing the sale and the U.S. mil­i­tary fa­vor­ing the trans­fers.

De­fense of­fi­cials say the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand, which is in charge of U.S. forces in Asia and would lead any U.S. de­fense of Tai­wan from Chi­nese at­tack, wants the White House to ap­prove the sale and do so sooner rather than later be­cause of the grow­ing im­bal­ance of mil­i­tary forces in the area.

Tai­wan’s air force cur­rently flies about 150 F-16A/B model jet fight­ers that were pur­chased in 1992. Tai­wan in May 2006 told the U.S. gov­ern­ment that it wants to buy 66 F-16C/D mod­els to counter a grow­ing Chi­nese mis­sile and air­craft threat across the Tai­wan Strait. China has some 1,000 mis­siles within range of Tai­wan and also has Rus­sian-made Su-27 jets armed with ad­vanced mis­siles in the area.

But State De­part­ment of­fi­cials want the sale post­poned in or­der to avoid up­set­ting China prior to the Olympic Games, say­ing that Bei­jing al­ready is an­gry at the protests that have dogged the world­wide Olympic torch re­lay over its mil­i­tary crack­down on Ti­bet. Th­ese of­fi­cials want to de­lay the F-16 sales un­til af­ter the games or later. China con­sid­ers Tai­wan a rene­gade prov­ince and calls U.S. arms sales an in­ter­fer­ence in its in­ter­nal af­fairs.

The Pen­tagon’s latest an­nual re­port to Congress on the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, made pub­lic in March, stated that China con­tin­ues to de­ploy its most ad­vanced weapons, in­clud­ing mis­siles and air­craft, op­po­site Tai­wan. The re­port said the Chi­nese mil­i­tary ex­pan­sion is shift­ing the cross-Strait mil­i­tary bal- ance in Bei­jing’s fa­vor.

Tai­wan’s leg­is­la­ture last year ap­proved a long-awaited de­fense spend­ing bud­get of $8.9 bil­lion for 12 P-3 anti-sub­ma­rine pa­trol craft, six Pa­triot anti-mis­sile sys­tem up­grades and sea-launched sur­face-to-air mis­siles.

How­ever, the State De­part­ment is block­ing or slow­ing Tai­wanese plans to pur­chase eight sub­marines, Pa­triot mis­siles and Apache at­tack he­li­copters.

The arms sales slow­down is backed by the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff, which has been qui­etly be­hind the grad­ual shift over the last sev­eral years away from sup­port for Tai­wan in fa­vor of back­ing Bei­jing on most pol­icy is­sues.

A Pa­cific Com­mand spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion if fully pre­pared to live up to its obli­ga­tions un­der the Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act to pro­vide Tai­wan mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties to de­fend it­self,” said Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Gor­don John­droe. “We will work with the new lead­er­ship in Tai­wan, once in place, to as­cer­tain their de­fense needs. It is pre­ma­ture to talk about any spe­cific new de­fense sales for Tai­wan un­til the new de­fense team on Tai­wan is in place.”

A State De­part­ment spokesman could not be reached for com­ment.

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