Sun, Mar 10, 2019 - Page 3 News List

US council supports purchase of fighter jets

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

The US-Taiwan Business Council has expressed support for Taiwan’s request to purchase a fleet of new fighter jets from the US, saying it would be consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

“Taiwan has a legitimate right to purchase new airframes and to maintain a modern, well-functioning air force that can ensure air sovereignty,” council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers said in a statement.

The military is upgrading its fleet of 144 F-16A/B jets to more advanced versions as part of a US$3.68 billion project launched in 2016.

Taiwan has submitted an official request to Washington, but the quantity or type of aircraft that Taipei is interested in has yet to be revealed, the statement said.

Major General Tang Hung-an (唐洪安), head of the Air Force Command’s planning division, recently said that Taiwan is open to all fighter jet options, but it is widely believed that it wants F-16Vs.

Hammond-Chambers said that new F-16Vs would help close the gap in air strength between Taiwan and China.

If such a request has been made, it would represent an “important increase in Taiwan’s commitment to its own defense and security,” he added.

“Given that this sale would be consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act requirement for the US to provide Taiwan with arms to defend itself, I am hopeful that the two sides can come to an agreement,” Hammond-Chambers said.

The TRA was enacted in 1979, after Washington severed ties with Taipei, to guide unofficial relations between the two nations.

The council has long supported the sale of additional F-16s to Taiwan, as it would “allow Taiwan to field a modern and capable fleet of fighter aircraft in sufficient numbers to meet the evolving threat represented by China’s ongoing military modernization,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Ian Easton, a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, said that the US’ apparent agreement to consider Taiwan’s request is “positive,” because Washington turned down similar requests by Taiwan in 2007 and 2011 due to pressure from China.

“It is encouraging that [US President Donald Trump’s] administration is now ignoring Chinese pressure and taking Taiwan’s air defense requirements more seriously,” Easton said, adding that he is optimistic that a sale would be approved.

If a sale of upgraded aircraft were to go through, it would send a strong political signal of US support for Taiwan and help Beijing understand that its threats against Taiwan have consequences, he said.

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