US Representative Phil Gingrey said on Thursday it was “imperative” for the administration of US President Barack Obama to sell F-16C/D jets to Taiwan.
He was speaking as the House of Representatives opened debate on a bill that could order Obama to make the sale.
In a keynote address to the Heritage Foundation, Gingrey said the White House had failed to provide Taiwan with the arms that it needs.
The House was expected to vote yesterday on the National Defense Authorization Act and whether to include a Taiwan amendment to the Act.
Introduced by US Representative Kay Granger, the amendment would “instruct the President to carry out the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan.”
Congressional sources said that the amendment was likely to be “bundled” with a number of other strongly supported amendments and pass by voice vote. It would then go to the Senate where again it has significant support.
In remarks prepared for delivery on the floor of the House, Granger was due to say: “Our ally Taiwan has been trying to buy these planes since 2007 while their air force continues to deteriorate. Not only is this sale good for the national security interests we share with Taiwan, it is also good for the US economy. In 32 different states, this sale would generate US$8.7 billion in economic output, produce an estimated US$768 million in federal tax revenues and create thousands of jobs.”
Gingrey, a co-chair of the Taiwan caucus, told the Heritage Foundation: “The United States and Taiwan have a very, very, important relationship. Yet despite a strong economic partnership, there are still challenges.”
He said that he had developed a “true concern” about the “unwillingness” of Obama to sell the F-16C/Ds.
The administration had taken a step in the right direction by agreeing to retrofit Taiwan’s fleet of older F-16 models, but that this was not enough, he said.
“Despite this step, I don’t think that the current administration is addressing the true problems that exist,” Gingrey said.
He said that a “simple retrofit” of the older F-16s did not meet the growing challenges that Taiwan faced from China.
Gingrey said that Granger was offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that called on the president to authorize the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/Ds to Taiwan.
“That bill is on the floor right now and we are debating amendments,” he said.
Gingrey said he “looked forward” to the adoption of the Taiwan amendment and that be believed the Senate would maintain it as the bill moved into the Conference Committee for final discussions.
“Given the broad congressional support, and White House acknowledgement of the growing disparity in aerial capability, it is imperative that we move forward with the sale of the F-16C/Ds to Taipei,” Gingrey said.
He went on to condemn Taiwan’s ban on US beef and said it was responsible for the long delay in starting trade talks that were for the “greater good” of both countries.
On the possible F-16C/D sale, Gingrey said it was necessary to put pressure on Obama to fulfill his “obligation.”
He said the sale would make diplomatic relations with China “dicey” and that in this election year the administration would have to handle it very carefully.
Director of Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation Walter Lohman said he thought the Granger amendment would pass.