Taiwan wants to buy more F-16s and will press the issue at an annual defense meeting with US officials, a military officer said yesterday.
“We’ll utilize the opportunity to again express the hope of buying F-16s,” a Ministry of National Defense official said on condition of anonymity.
The US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference 2009 in Virginia, which runs from Sunday until Tuesday, will include speeches by state and defense department officials.
The Taiwanese side is headed by Deputy Minister of Defense Chaou Shih-chang (趙世璋), the official said.
Taiwan applied to the US government to buy 66 F-16 C/D fighters in early 2007, but observers said Washington held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, which organized the conference, urged the administration of US President Barack Obama to approve the purchase, citing China’s growing military might.
The new planes are meant to beef up the air force’s combat strength until Taiwan can buy so-called “third generation” fighters from the US, military officers said.
The US in 1992 sold Taiwan 150 less sophisticated F-16 fighters, but refused to supply the F-16 C/Ds that Taiwan now wants. The F-16 C/Ds have a longer range and more powerful ground attack capability.
Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the US Pacific Command, warned earlier this month that relations between Beijing and Washington could face at least temporary strain if the US administration agrees to sell Taiwan the advanced F-16 jets.
The US has remained Taiwan’s leading arms supplier even though Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.