Mon, Jul 04, 2011 - Page 3 News List

US to upgrade F-16s, KMT lawmaker says

ELECTION WORRIES:The upgrade is seen as a compromise to selling Taiwan more advanced F-16C/Ds, which could severely anger Beijing during the US’ election year

AFP, TAIPEI

The US is expected to announce soon that it will help Taiwan upgrade its current F-16 aircraft rather than sell it more advanced aircraft, a senior legislator said yesterday.

The move to upgrade the F-16A/B combat aircraft rather than sell Taiwan the more advanced F-16C/Ds it wants will generate less pressure from Beijing, which strongly opposes any arms sales to Taiwan, analysts say.

“This will be a compromise deal,” said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who chairs the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.

Taiwan has repeatedly pressed the US to sell it F-16C/Ds, as China embarks on a rapid drive to build up its offensive military capability.

However, it is feared that such a sale would “anger” Beijing, which reacted furiously in January last year when US President Barack Obama announced a US$6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan.

That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter aircraft.

US lawmakers across party lines last month urged Obama to sell Taiwan the F-16C/Ds, with some accusing the administration of showing deference to China.

“The US is anticipated to make the decision within the next two to three months. The Obama administration certainly won’t want to see the arms deal become an issue during his election campaign for the second term,” Lin said.

The remarks came as the American Institute in Taiwan confirmed that Kin Moy, soon to become US deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan affairs, had visited last week, local media reported.

Moy met President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported.

Ma has worked to improve ties with China since he was elected in 2008, but has also repeatedly urged Washington to sell Taiwan the F-16C/D aircraft, saying they are crucial to maintaining Taiwan’s self-defence capacity.

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