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US lawmakers back Taiwan F-16 sale

‘DEMOCRATIC PARTNER’:US Senator Marco Rubio said the move is important for Taiwan’s self-defense efforts and urged the US Congress to quickly approve the sale

Staff writer, with CNA, Washington

An F-16 jet performs aerobatic maneuvers on the last day of Aero India at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore, India, on Feb. 24.

Photo: AP

Several US lawmakers on Friday voiced their support for a plan by US President Donald Trump’s administration to sell updated F-16 jets to Taiwan.

US Senator Marco Rubio commended the Trump administration for moving forward with strengthening Taiwan’s defense capabilities.

“As the Chinese government and [the Chinese] Communist Party seek to extend their authoritarian reach in the region, it is critical that the United States continues to enhance our strategic relationship with our democratic partner Taiwan through regular and consistent support,” Rubio said in a statement.

“This move is an important step in support of Taiwan’s self-defense efforts, and I urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee to quickly advance this critical arms sale,” Rubio added.

The Ministry of National Defense in late February requested 66 F-16s valued at US$8 billion, but progress seemed to stall as the Trump administration did not inform the US Congress of an arms sale before the July 26 recess.

The US Department of State on Thursday submitted the arms sale package to Congress for an informal review, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing US officials and people familiar with the matter.

US Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, and US Senator John Cornyn joined Rubio in praising the sale.

“The sale of the F-16 aircraft will help Taiwan maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and field a capable, modern fighter fleet — all the more important to deter aggression, given Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and military buildup,” the two senators said in a joint statement.

“We commend President Trump and his administration for their support of Taiwan and a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” they said.

US Representative Michael McCaul, ranking member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and US Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the committee, expressed similar views.

“The sale of F-16s to Taiwan sends a strong message about the US’ commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific region,” the lawmakers said.

According to Agence France-Presse, Lockheed Martin Corp, manufacturer of the fighter jets, said that the newest F-16 version, the F-16 Block 70/72, is equipped with advanced avionics, weapons and radar technology lacking in earlier models.

Taiwan in 1992 purchased a fleet of old F-16s, which have undergone several upgrades since their purchase.

The Republic of China Air Force on Friday said on Facebook that it plans to set up a new F-16 wing when the new jets are acquired.

Acquiring more F-16s is the quickest way for the air force to become battle ready, it said, adding that it has 144 F-16A/B jets in service, so personnel can be quickly retrained on the new model and the logistics rapidly updated.

The US State Department last month approved the sale of US$2.2 billion in weapons to Taiwan, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, a move that triggered criticism from Beijing.

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