Thu, Apr 06, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan would welcome F-35 jet sales: ministry

LOCAL CONCERNSMinister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan last month firmly opposed the nation having a THAAD system, to avoid a confrontation with China

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

An F-35 Lightning II multirole jet takes off during a training mission at the US’ Hill Air Force Base in Utah on March 15.

Photo: AFP

The nation does not need a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, but welcomes the possibility of acquiring Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multirole jets, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday in response to speculation that the US might offer Taiwan the two systems.

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun on Sunday reported that the US has listed the THAAD system and F-35s in its arms sale items to Taiwan.

The proposed items are considered an attempt by the US to resume talks with Taiwan about a US$1 billion arms deal that has been put on hold.

However, the ministry yesterday said that it has not received any information from the US.

“There has been no official word from the US [about the THAAD system and F-35s], and the new US administration has yet to appoint officials on Taiwan affairs, so discussions about the arms deal have not begun,” Department of Strategic Planning Director Wu Pao-kun (吳寶琨) said during a Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee question-and-answer session.

Deputy Minister of National Defense Cheng De-mei (鄭德美) said the nation does not need a THAAD system in the short term, as the US-made phased-array radar system at Hsinchu County’s Leshan (樂山) base is on par with the THAAD system in terms of detection capability.

However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) asked if the ministry would cooperate with the US if Taiwan was asked to deploy a THAAD system because of geopolitical concerns, to which Cheng said the ministry would evaluate the necessity should such an request be made.

Cheng’s comments were in slight contrast with Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan’s (馮世寬) last month, as Feng said he firmly opposed the deployment of a THAAD system, because Taiwan should distance itself from the antagonism between China and the US, and that Taiwan should defend itself instead of becoming involved in other nations’ interests.

Meanwhile, fighter jets capable of short or vertical takeoff and landing, such as F-35s, are needed for war scenarios, Wu added.

New Power Party Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) asked if the ministry would voluntarily reduce arms acquisitions to appease Beijing.

Cheng said the military has been developing the defense industry to reduce its reliance on arms imports and the influence of other nations.

Lim urged the ministry to procure whatever is necessary to ensure the nation’s defense capabilities, which could not be compromised due to China’s pressure.

“It is precisely because of the fear of China’s [potential military invasion] that Taiwan should build up its military and the defense capabilities cannot be compromised because of China’s opposition to arms sales,” Lim said.

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