Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Vice minister says efforts to buy F-16 jets are continuing

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of National Defense Chang Liang-jen (張良任) said yesterday the military would continue efforts to purchase F-16C/D fighter jets from the US.

“We have tried many times, but it never worked out. We haven’t given up hope,” Chang told lawmakers on the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee yesterday.

Chang’s remarks came after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) stressed the need for Taiwan to continue acquiring weapons from the US, such as diesel submarines and the fighter jets, during a videoconference call with China experts in Washington on Wednesday night.

Chang said the military would continue to communicate and negotiate with the US government regarding potential arms sales.

“We have to reach an agreement with the US. That is the first step,” Chang said. “They did not close the door on the two arms packages, so there is still a chance.”

When asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) what the Air Force would do if the US continued to delay a decision on the procurement or declined it completely, Chang Liang-jen said the military would have to come up with a contingency plan.

“Air Force technicians continue to develop and upgrade existing aircraft,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of contact between high-ranking Taiwanese officers and their Chinese counterparts during an Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies seminar being held in August in Hawaii, Chang Liang-jen said the Ministry of National Defense had no plans for a meeting or any form of communication with the Chinese.

He said that Taiwanese officers have been participating in the annual seminar in Hawaii for years, but up until now the Chinese military had refused to send any representatives to the event.

“We do not have any comment on this at the moment. Even if our officers meet with Chinese officers during the seminar, it does not necessarily mean that any relationship will be established,” Chang Liang-jen said.

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