Members of the US Congress are again pushing US President Barack Obama to put the sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan back on the front political burner.
The move comes as Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) completed a highly publicized visit to the US and as Obama’s re--election campaign gets underway.
The US president is under attack from opposition Republicans for not being tough enough on China and for failing to create enough new jobs in the current moribund economy.
Leading US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has accused Obama of kowtowing to Xi and of failing to look after US economic interests.
In a move that was widely interpreted as backing down to pressure from Beijing, Obama refused to sell 66 F-16C/Ds to Taiwan in September last year and agreed only to update the nation’s aging F-16A/B fleet.
Under heavy congressional pressure, White House aides said the future sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan had not been ruled out and was still under consideration.
Against this background, Republican US Senator John Cornyn announced on Friday that he was putting on hold the nomination of Mark Lippert as assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security affairs until the Obama administration comes up with a plan to address what he called “Taiwan’s looming fighter shortfall.”
Cornyn is strongly in favor of selling the advanced F-16s to -Taiwan, in part because they are built in Fort Worth, Texas, and the order would preserve hundreds of jobs in his home state.
The hold on Lippert’s nomination will be embarrassing for the White House and US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller has quickly responded to Cornyn’s action by saying that the F-16 upgrade package offered to Taiwan “effectively meets Taiwan’s current needs.”
Cornyn is expected to reject that argument this week and begin gathering support in the Senate.
At the same time, Republican US Representative Kenny Marchant, also from Texas, has introduced a statement into the Congressional Record saying: “It is important that the F-16 deal for Taiwan not be further delayed.”
He said that without the Taiwan order the F-16 production line would soon close, badly damaging the North Texas economy.
Formosan Association for Public Affairs president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said that while the sale of the F-16s was tabled last year, Congress and the general public needed to be reminded that the military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait had grown significantly worse amid a continued Chinese military buildup.
“There is an urgent need to counteract this worrying trend,” Kao said.