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U.S. may announce F-16 upgrade deal with Taiwan soon: Defense News

ROC Central News Agency

2011/06/06 12:03:00

By Zep Hu and Sofia Wu

Washington, June 5 (CNA) The United States may allow its contractors to upgrade Taiwan's existing F-16 A/B jet fighters later this year or in 2012, according to a report carried in the latest issue of Defense News.

Cited analysts and pro-Taiwan lobbyists, the report said that the U.S. administration is expected to release the F-16 A/B upgrade package as a strategy to ease pressure from Congress to sell more advanced 16 C/Ds to Taiwan.

The upgrade deal would bring Taiwan's F-16s to a standard broadly comparable to the F-16AM/BM flown by European air forces, which started life as F-16 A/Bs, the report said.

For a decade, Taiwan has been seeking a batch of F-16 C/Ds from the U.S. to upgrade its aging air arsenal. It remains unclear whether Taiwan can acquire the 66 F-16 C/Ds it wants since China has made it clear that it considers such a deal a "red line" that the United States should not cross.

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) published in late May a letter signed by more than 40 of their colleagues urging the Obama administration to approve Taiwan's request to buy 66 F-16 C/D jets.

The Defense News also editorialized in its latest issue that the U.S. must sell Taiwan F-16 C/Ds to show its resolve to honor its commitment to its allies.

"A critical question America regularly faces from its allies is whether Washington will support them if they are threatened. And when the United States fails to support its allies, the world takes note," the magazine said.

By furiously opposing the F-16 C/D deal, the editorial said, "China not only wants to weaken Taiwan, but also prompt Washington's allies in Asia to question whether America will be there for them in times of crisis."

Moreover, the editorial said, if the White House decides to block the sale, an emboldened Beijing may decide tomorrow that it doesn't want America selling its wares to other regional allies -- Japan, Australia, South Korea and others.

Selling the jets to Taiwan is a way to reassure governments who have questioned the U.S. commitment to the region and to remind Beijing that old alliances will not be traded away to appease a bigger trading partner, the magazine said.

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