Wed, Sep 14, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US senator unveils bill to force jet sale

DEFENSE:Though the bill that would order Barack Obama to sell at least 66 F-16C/Ds to Taiwan may pass the US House of Representatives, it is unlikely to pass the Senate

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

US Senator John Cornyn introduced a new bill to the US Congress ordering US President Barack Obama to sell 66 F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan.

The Cornyn bill — officially known as The Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011 — was cosponsored by US Senator Robert Menendez.

It aims to provide Taiwan with “critically needed multirole fighter aircraft to strengthen its self-defense capability against the increasing military threat from China.”

“A critical element to -maintain-ing peace and stability in Asia in the face of China’s two-decade long program of military modernization and expansion of military capabilities is ensuring a militarily strong and confident Taiwan,” the bill says.

“A Taiwan that is confident in its ability to deter Chinese aggression will increase its ability to proceed in developing peaceful relations with China in areas of mutual interest,” it says.

The bill concludes by ordering Obama to “carry out the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan.”

“The Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act of 2011 will help bring the United States into compliance with its legal obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide Taiwan with the military equipment it needs to maintain its self-defense capabilities,” a statement from Cornyn’s office read.

Unlike a resolution, the act will be legally binding once passed, unless it is vetoed by the president.

The Obama administration has yet to respond to the latest legislative gambit by the two senators on the jet fighter sale. It was unclear how many senators and US representatives would support the measure.

Insiders say that while the bill might pass the US House of Representatives, it has very little chance of getting through the Democrat-controlled US Senate.

However, it adds yet another voice to the growing chorus of US congressional support for the F-16C/D sale.

“The sale also plays a vital role for the US in expanding forward-deployed capacity building with a key Asia-Pacific security partner,” Cornyn said.

“Saying ‘no’ here would mean granting communist China substantial sway over American foreign policy, putting us on a very slippery slope,” he said.

Menendez also focused on the security and jobs benefits of the sale.

“Providing the military resources Taiwan needs is in the vital security interest of Taiwan, the national security interest of the United States, and is compelled by the Taiwan Relations Act,” Menendez, who represents New Jersey, said in the statement.

“Delaying the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan could result in the closure of the F-16 production line, which would cost New Jersey 750 manufacturing jobs,” he said.

In justifying the legislation, the bill cited a report by the Perryman Group, a private economic research and analysis firm, in saying the sale “would generate some US$8.7 billion in output and more than 87,664 person-years of employment in the United States,” including 23,407 direct jobs.

“Economic benefits would likely be realized in 44 states and the District of Columbia,” the bill read.

The US-Taiwan Business Council was urging Congress to pass the bill.

“The Act and this sale is a win-win for the national security interests of both the United States and Taiwan, as the new fighters would address part of the airpower imbalance by modernizing Taiwan’s fighter fleet,” council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said.

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