Despite a major new report by the US’ Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) making it clear Taiwan’s Air Force is in poor shape, it is by no means certain that Washington will sell Taipei the 66 advanced F-16C/D fighters it wants, sources in Washington said.
A White House source said US President Barack Obama had not made up his mind about the sale.
Weighing heavily against it is a belief that China will object much more strenuously than it did last month when Washington announced a US$6.4 billion arms and technology package.
On top of this, there is a powerful Pentagon group that argues in private that the F-16s would not be enough to significantly tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait back in Taiwan’s favor.
Speaking on condition of confidentiality, a member of the group said there was only “limited support” within the US Defense Department for selling Taiwan the planes and that he very much doubted a sale would go through.
Meanwhile, John Pike, head of the Global Security think tank in Washington, said that the new DIA report was only “belaboring the obvious” and that the Pentagon had known for years about the poor condition of Taiwan’s Air Force.
He said the administration of former US president George W. Bush had not agreed to sell the planes and that there was no reason to believe that Obama would change that policy.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said the unclassified version of the DIA report was “light in substance and content” because the agency did not want to provide anything that might be materially useful to the Chinese.
He said the classified version would address more substantial issues and the very action of producing the report was “extremely useful in driving internal consideration of Taiwan’s ... unaddressed request” for the F-16C/Ds.
The unclassified version, “clearly notes the need for Taiwan to replace aging equipment,” Hammond-Chambers said.
But without knowing what is contained in the classified version, he said, it was not possible to know if the US was more likely to sell the planes to Taiwan.
The report, released in Taipei on Monday, said that although Taiwan has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service, “far fewer of these are operationally capable.”
While the Air Force has deteriorated over the past 15 years, Beijing has been expanding its military on all fronts.
“Taiwan has stood still while China very markedly has not,” Pike said.
Nevertheless, Taiwan’s friends on Capitol Hill are sure to use the report to press the administration and the Pentagon hard for the F-16C/Ds.
Gerrit van der Wees, a senior political adviser with the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, said he believed the report would be used as a “building block” by those in favor of the sale.
He added that he was “optimistic” that the Obama administration would approve the sale of the fighters “within the next few months.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday downplayed the impression of the Air Force given in the report, saying the Air Force was upgrading its fighter jets as well as continuing to seek procurement of the F-16C/Ds.
Air Force Vice Chief of General Staff Major General Han Geng-sheng (韓更生) told a press conference that although the Air Force recognized the military balance of air power across the Taiwan Strait has tipped toward China, it has many programs to upgrade the capabilities of its fighters.
“The Air Force is working to prolong the service life of its F-5 fighters, which have not reached the end of their operational service life as said in the report,” Han said.
He said the upgrading of capabilities of the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) has begun and the military had also completed medium and long-term proposals to upgrade its Mirage 2000 and F-16A/B jets.
The service must strengthen management of its fighter jets teams and its personnel before procuring next-generation fighters, Han said.
He said the Air Force would continue to seek procurement of F-16C/Ds as well as the most advanced fighter jets, with short distance take off and landing, advanced air-to-air attack and stealth capabilities.
Ministry spokesman Major General Yu Sy-tue (虞思祖) called on the US to continue to sell Taiwan arms in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.
During a question-and-answer session with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) at the legislature yesterday, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said Taiwan would not give up its efforts to buy the F-16C/Ds.
“The imbalance of cross-strait military capabilities started to change many years ago. It is very difficult for us to overturn the situation by spending a large amount of money procuring large amounts of military equipment in a short period of time. Spending the money does not live up to the public’s interest, either,” Wu said.
The government needs to purchase “necessary, practical and reasonably priced” equipment, he said.
“The US has not agreed to the sale of F-16C/D fighter jets and submarines, but we are still negotiating ... we will not give up on the F-16C/Ds fighters and submarines because they are important to us,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
Japan’s ruling party yesterday proposed the nation’s biggest-ever stimulus package of ￥60 trillion (US$554 billion) as the COVID-19 pandemic locks the economy in a recession. The sum includes ￥20 trillion in fiscal measures with private initiatives and other elements likely making up the rest, the proposal by the Liberal Democratic Party showed. More than ￥10 trillion, or the equivalent of a 5 percentage point cut in the sales tax rate, would be handed out to the public in a combination of cash, subsidies and coupons, the plan showed. The proposal puts an initial figure on a stimulus package that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo