Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 3 News List

KMT says Chen's UN bid has derailed US sales of F-16s

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday said President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) push for a referendum on the nation's bid to join the UN under the name "Taiwan" had further strained relations with the US.

They told a press conference that the US had decided to put off approval of its sale of 66 F16 C/D fighter aircraft to Taiwan because of the UN bid, without giving the source of the information.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday quoted an anonymous source at the air force as saying that the air force has encountered difficulties obtaining an offer letter from the US before October as the US has decided to defer review of the case.

The legislature last month approved a budget of NT$16 billion (US$486.77 million), a tenth of the seven-year plan from this year to 2014, to buy 66 F16 C/D fighters and a resolution stipulating that the budget cannot be used unless the Ministry of National Defense briefs the legislature on the US proposal in October.

"It has been the US' stance to maintain the equilibrium of air power between Taiwan and China over the past 50 years," KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民) said.

"The delay in the sales [of the fighter craft] shows that a serious problem has emerged in the US-Taiwan relationship," Shuai said.

He said that the delay would deprive Taiwan of an advantage in air power and called on the president to stop damaging Taiwan-US relations.

"The US deferred the case because it didn't want to displease China, considering the situation in the Middle East and North Korea. It is also worried that Chen would use approval of the sale as propaganda that the US backs its UN referendum plan," KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said.

The Presidential Office yesterday declined to respond to the accusations.

Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (李南陽) said that neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Presidential Office had received such a message.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling

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