Taiwan said on Saturday that its plan to buy 66 F-16V fighter jets from the United States remains on course despite reports that Washington has put the sale on hold pending its trade negotiations with Beijing.
A statement issued by the island’s defence ministry said a letter of request had been sent to the US and that things were proceeding as normal.
The notice came after Time magazine reported on Friday that the Trump administration had put the sale on ice while negotiators from the US and China ironed out the final details of their hard-fought trade agreement.
If the deal does go ahead, it would be the first time since 1992 that the US had sold F-16s to Taiwan and would provide a significant boost to the self-ruled island’s defences.
Although the US has a statutory obligation to defend Taiwan, recent administrations have stopped short of allowing it to buy new fighter jets.
According to military experts, the new variant of the F-16, the Viper – which can carry a wide range of short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles – is more able to counter the threat of an air strike from mainland China’s fourth generation aircraft like the Su-35 and J-10.
Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a former deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said that with ties between Washington and Taipei stronger than ever – and Sino-US relations under pressure – there had never been a better time to try and seal the deal.
“This is a strategic opportunity for Taiwan, and Taipei should grab it,” he said. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the SCMP website.