Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Defense ministry says Bush is blocking F-16 sales

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said that although the US Department of Defense supported the sale of F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan, US President George W. Bush had decided to suspend the sale.

"Bush decided to suspend the arms procurement because Taiwan has not made any progress with its long-delayed arms procurement bill," Lee told the legislature's National Defense Committee yesterday.

"A high-ranking official from the US Department of Defense in charge of US arms sales to foreign countries earlier this year told the Ministry of National Defense (MND) that the US would sell F-16C/D fighter jets to the country," Lee said.

"The American Institute in Taiwan in late August submitted a reference of the prices at which the US was selling F-16C/D fighters to its allies, but since that time there has been no progress on the arms sales from the US, and the MND later learned from US officials that Bush had decided to suspend the bill," the minister said.

Lee said if Taiwan makes progress with a long-delayed arms procurement package approved by Bush in 2000, the US would agree to sell the F-16s to Taiwan.

The MND's budget request shows that the Cabinet has allocated NT$16.03 billion (US$487.8 million) to begin the procurement of F-16s from the US for the purchase of fighter aircraft even though Washington has yet to approve the deal.

The money is only a fraction of what it would cost to purchase 66 fighter aircraft, and is calculated to show the Cabinet's determination to push through its arms budget requests. The government did not provide a cost estimate for the entire purchase, as the purchase price is not yet known.

Lee yesterday said that, according to officials in the Pentagon, although some people in the US Department of State did not support the procurement, if the legislature was able to pass the budget they believed the State Department would not oppose it.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said that the MND must obtain a commitment from the US.

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