Tai­wan’s jet re­quest

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­tin­u­ing to de­lay its re­sponse to Tai­wan’s re­quest to buy an ad­di­tional 66 F-16 jet fight­ers.

A se­nior Tai­wan de­fense of­fi­cial said the jets are ur­gently needed to re­place ag­ing F-5 fight­ers. The air force has lost 10 pi­lots in train­ing crashes be­cause of the old jets.

“Our pi­lots don’t mind dy­ing in com­bat, but they don’t want to die in train­ing ac­ci­dents be­cause their air­craft are too old,” the de­fense of­fi­cial said, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he is not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly.

Tai­wan pur­chased 150 F-16s in the late 1990s and also some French-made Mirage 2000 jets.

The re­quest for 66 more F-16s is worth an es­ti­mated $3.1 bil­lion and was made in 2006. At the time, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would not al­low the sale by Lock­heed Martin to go through.

The de­fense of­fi­cials said Tai­wan’s gov­ern­ment has con­tin­ued to press for the ad­di­tional F-16s, not­ing that it has no other sup­pli­ers and that the Mirage has proved too dif­fi­cult and costly to main­tain.

“We’re not ask­ing for the F35,” the of­fi­cial said. “But we need the F-16s.” The of­fi­cial noted that Tai­wan’s mil­i­tary is con­cerned that if the sale is not ap­proved, the pro­duc­tion line for the jet could close. A spokesman for Lock­heed Martin, the jet’s man­u­fac­turer, had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

The of­fi­cial noted that the 1979 Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act states specif­i­cally that the United States is per­mit­ted to sell de­fen­sive arms to Tai­wan in quan­ti­ties needed to al­low the is­land to main­tain a suf­fi­cient self-de­fense ca­pa­bil­ity.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, how­ever, fears that sell­ing the new jets to Tai­wan will trig­ger an­other dis­rup­tion in mil­i­tary re­la­tions with China, which cut off such ties in Oc­to­ber 2008 af­ter the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced it would sell $6.5 bil­lion in arms, not in­clud­ing the F-16s, to Tai­wan.

The de­fense of­fi­cial said that in ad­di­tion to the jets, Tai­wan has re­quested Black­hawk he­li­copters and two ad­di­tional brigades of Patriot PAC-3 anti-mis­sile sys­tems. Four brigades were ap­proved in the Oc­to­ber 2008 arms pack­age.

A se­nior White House Na­tional

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