The administration of US President Donald Trump has given tacit approval to Taiwan’s request to buy more than 60 F-16 Fighting Falcons, people familiar with the matter said.
Trump’s advisers encouraged Taiwan to submit a formal request for the jets, built by Lockheed Martin, which it did this month, said the people, who asked not be identified discussing internal discussions.
Any such request would need to be converted into a formal proposal by the US departments of defense and state, and then US Congress would have 30 days to decide whether to block the sale.
The administration of then-US president Barack Obama in 2011 rejected a similar Taiwanese request over concern about antagonizing China.
However, Trump has chosen a more aggressive approach at a time when his administration is locked in difficult negotiations with China over trade.
It is unclear whether a potential F-16 sale could become a bargaining chip in those discussions or is solely an outgrowth of the administration’s renewed focus on Taiwan, a long-time US ally that was once seen as a bulwark against Chinese expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.
The White House declined to comment on Taiwan’s request, which several of the people said also includes tanks.
In October last year, US Vice President Mike Pence assailed China for moves to chip away at Taiwan’s diplomatic presence overseas and its ramping up of pressure on private companies to refer to Taiwan as a province of China.
In announcing its request for the airplanes, Taiwan did not say how many jets it was seeking.
The request followed a lengthy back and forth with the administration after the US swatted down Taiwan’s earlier request for Lockheed’s more modern F-35 Lighting II.
The US Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which oversees such weapons sales, declined to comment on the possibility of the weapons sales.
Even if a sale is approved by Congress and a contract is reached with Lockheed, the airplanes probably would not be going to Taiwan anytime soon.
Lockheed spokeswoman Carolyn Nelson said that the first F-16s to be built at a new facility in Greenville, South Carolina, would not roll off the production line until 2021, and those are committed to Bahrain.
The jets were previously built in Fort Worth, Texas.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton is a long-time supporter of Taiwan, and some advisers on the US National Security Council have urged a more aggressive posture, including sending more US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
As president-elect, Trump shattered precedent and infuriated China by taking a call from President Tsai-Ing-wen (蔡英文) and calling into question the US’ continuing commitment to the “one China” policy that underpinned the establishment of ties between Beijing and Washington under then-US president Richard Nixon.
Trump has since affirmed US support for “one China,” while also making clear that protecting Taiwan is a priority in his dealings with leaders in Beijing.
WHEELING AND DEALING? Hou You-yi, Ko Wen-je, Eric Chu and Ma Ying-jeou are under investigation for allegedly offering bribes for the other side to drop out of the race Taipei prosecutors have started an investigation into allegations that four top politicians involved in attempts to form a “blue-white” presidential ticket have contravened election regulations. Listed as defendants are Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫), former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲). The case stemmed from judicial complaints filed last month with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office alleging that the KMT (blue) and the TPP (white) had engaged in bribery by offering money or other enticements
EXPOSED: Some Taipei wardens reported joining the trips out of peer pressure, while others said they were relieved it was made public so they could refuse, a city councilor said Nearly 30 percent of Taipei borough wardens have joined group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government, leading prosecutors probing potential Chinese interference in January’s elections to question local officials, an investigation showed. Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors Chien Shu-pei (簡舒培) and Chen E-jun (陳怡君) have reported cases of Taipei borough wardens inviting residents to join inexpensive privately organized group tours to China that were partially funded by the Chinese government. The six-day trips reportedly cost NT$10,000 to NT$15,000, the councilors said. An investigation by the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) showed that nearly 30 percent
ELIGIBLE FOR JANUARY: All presidential candidates and their running mates meet the requirements to run for office, and none hold dual citizenship, the CEC said Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Legislator and vice presidential candidate Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) is working with the Central Election Commission (CEC) to resolve issues with her financial disclosure statement, a spokesman for the candidate said yesterday, after the commission published the statements of all three presidential candidates and their running mates, while confirming their eligibility to run in the Jan. 13 election. Wu’s office spokesman, Chen Yu-cheng (陳宥丞), said the candidate encountered unforeseen difficulties disclosing her husband’s finances due to being suddenly thrust into the campaign. She is also the first vice presidential nominee to have a foreign spouse, complicating the reporting of
GOOD NEWS: Although open civic spaces are shrinking in Asia-Pacific countries and territories, Taiwan’s openness is a positive sign, an expert said Taiwan remains the only country in Asia with an “open” civic space for the fifth consecutive year, the Civicus Monitor said in a report released yesterday. The People Power Under Attack 2023 report named Taiwan as one of only 37 open countries or territories out of 198 globally, and the only one in Asia. Compiled by Civicus — a global alliance of civil society organizations dedicated to bolstering civil action — the ranking compiled annually since 2017 measures the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression around the world. Researchers assign each country or territory one of five rankings describing the