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.
BREAKING RECORDS: Kuo Hsing-chun’s snatch, clean and jerk, and combined lifts were all Olympic records, although well off her combined world record Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun (郭婞淳) yesterday completed her elusive quest for Olympic gold, clinching Taiwan’s first win at the Tokyo Games as she set Olympic records in the women’s under-59kg weight class. Kuo, who has not lost a major competition in her weight class since the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she was hampered by injury and finished third, finally chased down the gold medal that had long remained just out of her grasp. The 27-year-old finished with a combined lift of 236kg — 103kg in the snatch and 133kg in the clean and jerk — 21kg more
NEXT ROUND: About 1.44 million people who have registered online to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine are to get text messages today to book a vaccine appointment Strict border control measures, including a ban on foreign nationals entering or transiting through Taiwan, are to continue, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported 10 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and no deaths. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said five of the cases tested positive during isolation or upon ending it. The sources of infection of eight cases have been identified, one remains unclear and one is under investigation, he said, adding that 87.8 percent of the people infected with COVID-19 since May 11 have been released from isolation. Chen said an
NO ‘ONE CHINA’ LIE: The appropriations act passed the US House of Representatives with a vote of 217-212, but still needs Senate approval and the president’s signature The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a foreign assistance spending bill with an amendment forbidding that funds be used to create, procure or display maps depicting Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic of China. The amendment was introduced by five Republican representatives — Tom Tiffany, Steve Chabot, Scott Perry, Kat Cammack and Mike Gallagher — and passed unanimously in a bundle with a dozen other amendments. “This is a common sense measure,” Tiffany said, speaking on the House floor on Wednesday. “As we all know, Taiwan has never been part of communist China. The Taiwanese people elect their
THE HOME TEAM: DPP Legislator Kao Chia-yu said she canceled her booking for an AstraZeneca shot as soon as she heard that the Medigen vaccine was an option President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday said that she would get inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Taiwan-based Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗). Tsai wrote on Facebook that she had registered for her first vaccine dose using the national online COVID-19 vaccination booking system, which allows people to indicate their preferred vaccine brand and to make an appointment when the shot becomes available. Tsai said that she opted for the Medigen vaccine — one of three now available on the system, along with the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines — even though Medigen has yet to deliver any doses or provide a