Taiwan welcomes any action that would help enhance its defense capabilities, the Ministry of National Defense said on Saturday, after learning that the administration of US President Barack Obama would give serious consideration to selling new fighter aircraft to Taiwan to help redress the disparity in air power across the Taiwan Strait.
“Taiwan appreciates proposals aimed at helping to promote and enhance its defense capabilities,” ministry spokesman Colonel David Lo (羅紹和) said.
In a letter to Republican Senator John Cornyn on Friday, the White House said the idea of selling new aircraft to Taiwan warrants “serious consideration, given the growing military threat to Taiwan.”
“We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490,” wrote Robert Nabors, a White House aide and director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said it was a time for the ministry to inquire about the possibility of submitting a letter of request (LoR) for new F-16C/D aircraft.
Taipei has been anxious to procure new jets to replace older ones, but Washington has been reluctant to accept an LoR “for difficult reasons,” said Lin, a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
The negotiations on arms sales could take as long as two to three years, he said, implying that the US would probably want to finish upgrading Taiwan’s existing F-16A/B fleet before moving on.
In September, the US and Taiwan reached a US$5.85 billion arms sale deal to upgrade Taiwan’s 145 F-16A/Bs.
However, the US said Taiwan’s request to procure F-16C/Ds was still under review.