Fri, Mar 19, 2010 - Page 1 News List

US senator pressing for sale of F-16s to Taiwan

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

US Senator John Cornyn is calling on US President Barack Obama to immediately sell 66 advanced F-16C/D fighter planes to Taiwan.

“It would send a powerful message that the US will stand by our allies, both in the Taiwan Strait and in other parts of the world,” the Texan Republican said.

In a statement made from the floor of the Senate, Cornyn said continued US support for Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs was vital, as was compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act.

“Since 2006, the Taiwanese have made clear their desire to purchase 66 F-16C/Ds to augment an air fleet that is bordering on obsolescence,” he said.

Cornyn said that with the continuing Chinese weapons buildup, the military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait was increasing and Washington’s recent decision to sell a US$6.4 billion arms package to Taipei was not enough to set things straight.

“A gauge of how quickly this tide has turned can be found in the Department of Defense’s [DOD] Annual Report on the military power of the PRC,” he said. “The 2002 version of this report concluded that Taiwan ‘has enjoyed dominance of the airspace over the Taiwan Strait for many years.’ The DOD’s 2009 report now states this conclusion no longer holds true.”

He said that peace and security in the Taiwan Strait were core US national interests.

“If China becomes emboldened, it might be tempted to try and take Taiwan through outright aggression or cow Taiwan into subservience through intimidation,” Cornyn said.

“We know a Taiwan that is properly defended and equipped will raise the stakes for China, and that would serve as the best defense against belligerent acts,” he said.

Given the impending closure of the F-16 production line — the US and its allies are switching to the F-35 as their future fighter platform — time is pressing for a decision on the sale to Taiwan.

“When the F-16 line eventually goes cold, it is not realistic to expect that it would be restarted,” Cornyn said.

President of the US-Taiwan Business Council Rupert ­Hammond-Chambers praised Cornyn’s statement.

“The inability of Taiwan to adequately defend its airspace will place a greater burden on already stretched US forces in the Asia-­Pacific,” he said. “Providing Taiwan with additional F-16s, thereby rationalizing and modernizing their fleet, reduces the pressure on US forces to fill the gap.”

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