Wed, Mar 28, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Two US senators pressing for F-35 sales to Taiwan


Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, asks a question during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 6.

Photo: Reuters

Two senior US Republican senators on Monday asked US President Donald Trump’s administration to allow the sale of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to Taiwan, saying it would help it “remain a democracy” in the face of threats from China.

“These fighters will have a positive impact on Taiwan’s self-defense and would act as a necessary deterrent to China’s aggressive military posture across the Asia-Pacific region,” senators John Cornyn, the assistant majority leader, and James Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, said in a letter to Trump.

“After years of military modernization, China shows the ability to wage war against Taiwan for the first time since the 1950’s,” they wrote. “However, with your leadership, it is possible to help Taiwan remain a democracy, free to establish a relationship with China that is not driven by military coercion.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump on March 16 signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages the US to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

The Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday reiterated its support for the legislation.

“President Tsai [Ing-wen (蔡英文)] believes that stable relations between Taiwan and the US serve as an important foundation for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. Taiwan has the ability and is willing to work with the United States in the Indo-Pacific region to make more contributions,” the office said.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一) told Chinese state television late on Monday that “certain Americans” were trying to play the Taiwan card, which harmed the interests of people in China and Taiwan.

“This is duping Taiwan compatriots,” Liu said, without naming any US officials. “It is futile for any outside forces to try and play the Taiwan card and doing anything to harm the interest of the Chinese people.”

The US military has put countering China and Russia at the center of a new national defense strategy unveiled by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in January.

Other US allies in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Singapore, are also exploring the purchase of F-35s.

Lockheed said it hit its target last year of delivering 66 F-35 jets to the US and its allies.

This article has been corrected since it was first published to indicate that the Taiwan Travel Act is a public law, not a non-binding congressional resolution.

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