Wed, Sep 12, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Purchase of F-16 fighter jets from US `legitimate': official

US MEETING Ko Cheng-heng, deputy minister of national defense, led a delegation attending a US-Taiwan conference on military modernization

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

Taiwan has "urgent and legitimate" needs to buy F-16 jet fighters from the US, Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) said in Annapolis, Maryland, on Monday.

Ko, heading a Taiwanese delegation attending the Sixth US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, made the remarks at a breakfast meeting.

He said that China had continued to build up its military might, which not only posed a threat to Taiwan's security, but also caused regional instability.

"This is why Taiwan is determined to speed up its military modernization and increase defense spending," he said.

Taiwan needs to phase out its aging fighter fleet, Ko said. He said the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) passed by the US Congress in 1979 stipulates that the US is permitted to provide Taiwan with defense weaponry.

Ko also said that both sides need to strengthen cooperation on technology to maintain a mutually beneficial Taiwan-US partnership.

Taiwan has the edge in talent, resources and production cost control, he said. In addition, it produces and exports parts and components to the US and many manufacturers have been certified to provide parts and components to the US, he said.

To promote bilateral cooperation, the government has also decided to restart a national defense science park in Tungluo (銅鑼), Miaoli County, he said.

Meanwhile, a senior Pentagon official was asked if the US would wait for Taiwan's new president to assume office on May 20 before approving the new fighter sale and whether Taiwan's drive for a referendum on applying to the UN under the name "Taiwan" would affect defense cooperation.

The official, who requested anonymity, said the US has not yet decided whether to sell Taiwan new jet fighters.

The official said the US government had been consistent in opposing the planned referendum, but he said that military exchanges between Taiwan and the US are deep and wide, which should be enough to conform to the promises made in the TRA.

But he also pointed out that the fighters were not included in the three big-ticket items -- six Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-fueled submarines and a squadron of 12 maritime patrol helicopters.

The annual US-Taiwan defense industry conference brings together Taiwanese delegates and delegates from the US-Taiwan Business Council, as well as representatives from the US defense industry.

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