CHINESE REGIME OFFICIALS have rigged the strings this time—according to a Defense News report, Taiwan may not be getting those American F-16 C/D fighter planes they asked for.
An anonymous Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND) official told Defense News that the U.S. will deny Taiwan’s request for 66 new F-16 C/D fighter planes.
According to the newsweekly, a U.S. Department of Defense delegation arrived in the capital of Taiwan last week to offer conciliation. Instead of selling Taiwan the 66 planes, the U.S. would upgrade older Taiwanese F-16 A/Bs, making the 146 A/Bs among the most capable of their make.
F-16 A/Bs are the original Fighting Falcon aircrafts, built for Taiwan in the 1980's. F-16 C/Ds are the current production version of the Falcon aircrafts, lighter and more powerful than previous versions.
But an official of the American Institute in Taiwan (surrogate U.S. Embassy) told Defense News that “"no decisions had been made yet."” The U.S. State Department indicated in July that a final decision would be made by Oct. 1.
Last year the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responded to U.S. arm sales to Taiwan by suspending all military contacts with the U.S., saying that the sale was against its “core interests.”
The CCP has called the sale of 66 planes a “red line,” i.e. forbidden territory. But Taiwan’s Deputy Secretary of National Defense Yang Nianzu said that the CCP calls everything a red line.
Xinhua, the CCP’s propaganda mouthpiece, said in an article that the issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan is often used by American politicians to sling mud and catch attention.
Taiwanese Deputy Secretary Yang said that Beijing has not stopped threatening Taiwan with missiles. If Taiwan cannot sufficiently protect itself, the U.S. will be forced to step in under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
The United States sometimes doesn’t understand Taiwan’s responsibility to the region. We need a new fighter plane to maintain the balance.
Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said on July 29 that it’s hard for Taiwanese to believe that the Chinese missiles pointed towards Taiwan are simply for “self-defense,” as CCP officials have claimed.
In order to strike a balance of power, Taiwan needs the 66 F-16 C/Ds, said Yang.
Defense Minister Kao also refuted communist China's claims that the weapons purchases would strain cross-strait relations. In fact, he said, the Taiwanese public was reassured by the arms sales and tensions were reduced as a result.
For the U.S., the denial of Taiwan’s request means the loss of over 16,000 jobs and almost $768 million dollars in federal tax revenue according to a June report by the Perryman Group, a Texan economic and financial analysis firm.
The sale would also have been beneficial for Lockheed Martin, the company that produces the planes, which has plans to extend the production line for F-16C/Ds, the company’s spokesperson told Defense News.
President Ma Ying-jeou has said that for security’s sake, Taiwan will continue to lobby for more weapons, even if the U.S. officially denies the request.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates explained why the U.S. had an obligation to serve Taiwan, according to an American Forces Press Service report from January:
Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, and it is a law and not a policy, Gates said. The law requires the United States to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan."