The Ministry of National Defense yesterday denied it would seek a “watered down” arms deal to expedite the process and said it was still pursuing its bid to buy eight submarines and dozens of F-16 fighters from the US despite improving relations with Beijing.
The Chinese-language China Times reported yesterday that Taiwan had decided to accept a US proposal of just four conventional submarines to help expedite the arms deal, which has been in limbo since 2001.
“The report is not true. The country’s position to seek [eight] diesel-powered submarines and F-16C/Ds has never changed,” the ministry said in a statement. “The deal is still in the US government’s screening process. The ministry will keep pushing for the deal so as to meet Taiwan’s self-defense demands.”
In April 2001, then-US president George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as a part of Washington’s most comprehensive arms package to Taiwan since 1992.
However, since then, there has been little progress as the US has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years, and Germany and Spain reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.
Taiwan also applied to the US government to buy 66 F-16C/Ds early in 2007, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.
The ministry’s statement came after a week-long visit to the US by People’s Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德).
Chen said the main source of friction was over Taiwan and renewed his objection to any US arms sales to Taiwan.
The US in January last year approved a US$6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, prompting Beijing to halt military exchanges and security talks with Washington.