US Vice President Joe Biden was pressured during a political visit to Texas on Tuesday over the White House failure to sell advanced F-16C/D jets to Taiwan.
It was an early indication that arms sales to Taiwan could become an issue in this year’s US presidential election.
Biden was in Fort Worth, Texas, for two private fund-raising events for US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The city’s Star-Telegram newspaper used the visit to run a column by editorial director Jill Labbe calling for the sale of the jets.
“Obama, via his surrogate, Biden, has an opportunity for a stand-up triple in North Texas — support a long-time democratic ally, bring job security to thousands of North Texans and show he’s not intimidated by the nation’s banker,” Labbe said. “Mr President, sell the F-16s to Taiwan.”
The Lockheed Martin F-16C/D production line — situated in Texas — will reportedly have to close in the next year or two without the Taipei order.
More than 4,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs are dependent on the sale, which would keep the line open for at least another five years.
Labbe said a decision to sell would also please men and women in uniform who “are tired of riding to the rescue of other countries when a neighbor decides to act a fool.”
She said that when the Obama administration announced its new defense strategy early last month, it was clear from US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s comments about a renewed commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific region that the spotlight was on China, “which is aggressively expanding its military footprint.”
Labbe said the US would maintain large bases in Japan and South Korea, deploy about 2,500 navy and marine personnel and aircraft to Australia and bolster its strategic partnerships with Asia-Pacific countries like India, Singapore and Indonesia.
She said there was a willingness to sell US fighter aircraft to every allied nation in these regions with the one “glaring exception” of Taiwan.
Japan has committed to buying 42 F-35s; Indonesia is adding 24 refurbished F-16C/Ds to its fleet; Australia is an F-35 international partner; Singapore has said it will buy F-35s and South Korea is also in the market for new fighters.
“China’s neighbors are donning the latest ‘Made in USA’ finery as they suit up for their own regional defense,” Labbe said.
“The Taipei government has been waiting since 2006 for the green light to purchase 66 F-16C/Ds,” she said.
Labbe said that Obama would be hammered by the Republican Party as an “appeasement president” if he did not make the sale to Taiwan.
Reportedly, Biden was heavily lobbied against selling new jets to Taiwan during his visit to China last year, and he is expected to play a major role in the US visit this month of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平).