Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US set to unveil US$4.2bn arms package: report

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

The Washington Times reported on Thursday night that Congress would be briefed yesterday by the administration of President Barack Obama on a new US$4.2 billion arms package for Taiwan.

While the newspaper did not know for certain, it strongly indicated that the package would not include the 66 advanced F-16C/D jets that Taipei has requested.

“All we’ve been told is the president has made a decision, and I assume it will be for the F-16A/B upgrade package,” a senior Congressional aide close to the issue was quoted as saying.

Washington Times security correspondent Bill Gertz said that officials had told him Obama had decided against selling the F-16C/Ds despite strong pressure from the US Congress.

The White House refused to comment.

Gertz said that China was expected to “react harshly” against the upgrade package.

In the past, China has stopped all military-to-military contact with the US as a means of expressing its anger at arms sales to Taiwan.

Officials told the Washington Times that the Obama administration has made its policy of seeking closer military ties with China a high priority and that was one reason they had rejected Taipei’s pleas for the F-16C/Ds.

The newspaper said that it was a setback for administration officials who were concerned about Taiwan’s declining defenses.

There was no comment from the US Department of State.

“In addition to the new arms package, the Pentagon is expected to release a long--delayed study on the air power balance across the 100-mile Taiwan Strait,” the newspaper said.

“The study is said by officials to show that Taiwan’s air force urgently needs modernization,” it said.

“China has been building up its air forces along the coast opposite Taiwan with new and more advanced warplanes, including Russian-made Su-27s, Su-30s and Chinese J-10 fighters,” it added.

The Washington Times said that according to two US officials close to the arms debate, White House National Security Council staff, including China military expert Evan Medeiros, were key to the president’s decision not to sell the new jets.

They argued that the F-16C/Ds were far more capable than the earlier F-16s and could be considered offensive weapons. The US has pledged to provide only defensive arms to Taiwan.

In a letter sent earlier this week to US Senator Richard Lugar, US Department of State official David Adams said: “Although we cannot comment publicly on foreign military sales cases until those cases are notified to Congress, we can assure that this administration pays close attention to ensure that Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities remain adequate to its needs, as the Taiwan Relations Act requires.”

In Taipei, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) said yesterday the ministry was seeking corroboration on the report from the American Institute in Taiwan and Taiwan’s representative office in the US, but that “up to this point, that [the report] seems to be a rumor.”

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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