Ma renews call for US fighter jet sale

CONGRESSIONAL VISIT::US Representative Dan Burton met President Ma and Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang yesterday and backed the sale of US arms to Taiwan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Ko Shu-ling  /  Staff Reporters, with AFP

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday renewed his call on Washington to sell Taiwan F-16C/D aircraft, while a Coast Guard Administration official announced “rigorous combat training” for coast guard personnel in the South China Sea.

During a meeting with US Representative Dan Burton, a Republican, at the Presidential Office, Ma said he hoped the US government would support Taiwan’s request “so that we can replace the old fleet and maintain the national defense capability of our country.”

Burton arrived in Taipei on a six-day visit on Sunday. He is the chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and a former co-chair of the US Congressional Taiwan Caucus.

In a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添), Burton voiced support for US arms sales to Taiwan.

“One of the things the foreign minister and I discussed briefly was making sure that we move towards completing the sale of the military equipment that would be beneficial to Taipei for long-term security,” Burton said.

“I am going to do everything I can as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee to see that this is accomplished,” he said.

Addressing media following the meeting, Yang said they discussed the changing situation in the Asia-Pacific region and the US’ role in region. They both agreed that the US presence in the region was a “cornerstone” to maintaining freedom, stability and security, which is also “a vital national interest” of the US, Yang said.

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, over which China claims sovereignty while the US says it has a national interest in freedom of navigation, Yang said Taiwan shared the US perspective on the matter.

“We welcome the return of the US to the Western Pacific,” Yang said, adding that Taiwan supported the US State Department’s oft-stated position calling for continued peace and stability in the region as well as respect for international law.

All parties involved in disputes over the sovereignty of the contested areas should set aside differences and jointly develop maritime resources, Yang said.

The comments coincided with an announcement by Coast Guard Administration Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) that coast guard personnel stationed in the South China Sea would undergo “rigorous combat training.”

Personnel posted to the area will receive training akin to that of the Marine Corps, Wang said.

“We need strength to defend our sovereignty,” he said, but did not provide details about the training.

Media reports said this could include skills in areas such as coastal defense against amphibious attack.

There is a coast guard base on Taiping Island (太平島), the largest island in the disputed Spratly (南沙群島) archipelago.

The island, which has a runway to help with logistical support, is reported to have a garrison of about 130 personnel.

Taiwan on Monday reiterated its claims to the Spratlys, along with three other island groups in the South China Sea, amid a flare-up in tensions between the Philippines and China over rival claims.

“We urge the Philippines not to take any unilateral move that will spark controversy in the South China Sea,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the Spratlys.

The Philippine military last week said it planned to use a new US-made vessel to boost patrols in the disputed waters.