The White House is refusing to negotiate with US Senator John Cornyn over his demands for greater “clarity” on whether the US will agree to the future sale of F-16C/D jets to Taiwan.
Despite enormous pressure, US President Barack Obama will not even discuss the issue.
Cornyn is putting the president’s feet to the fire by holding up the nomination of Mark Lippert for the job of US assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
It is an important job, and one that would make Lippert — nominated by Obama in October last year — the Pentagon’s top Asia official.
However, under the US political system, a senator has the power to put a “hold” on a presidential nomination and stop it going forward indefinitely.
Soon after the nomination was first made, Senator John McCain put it on hold until he was provided the details of a certain national security issue.
The White House negotiated with McCain, reached a compromise and the senator lifted his hold on the nomination last month.
Cornyn then stepped in and placed a new hold on the nomination — a well-established US Senate tactic to win concessions from the president.
Cornyn is furious because the White House last year refused to sell new F-16s to Taiwan and decided instead to upgrade the old versions of the fighters the country already owns.
The F-16C/Ds that Taiwan has been seeking for years are made in Texas and Taipei’s order for 66 of the fighters would have guaranteed a large number of local jobs that are now under threat as the assembly line prepares to close.
Cornyn has argued for the sale on the grounds that it is required under the Taiwan Relations Act and also that it would provide a desperately needed boost to the US economy.
Obama has not ruled out the sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan and his top aides say the issue remains under consideration.
In a letter to the president, Cornyn demanded “clarity” on the issue.
During an election year, with employment and the economy likely to be decisive issues, Cornyn is in effect trying to force the White House to agree to the sale and secure jobs in his home state.
However, sources close to Cornyn said that on this occasion, the White House has remained silent and made no attempt to negotiate with him.
Cornyn said at the end of last week: “More than anything, I’d like to engage in a discussion over how do we solve this problem.”
“So far they seem to act like they can just ignore it and it’s going to go away, but I’m not planning on going away,” he said.