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Taiwan still wants F-16 C/D fighter jets, submarines: premier

ROC Central News Agency

2010/02/23 19:55:14

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) Premier Wu Den-yih said Tuesday that Taiwan will not forsake plans to purchase the more advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets as well as diesel-electric submarines from the United States, amid a U.S. government report which suggested the island's current fleet was too old and weak. Speaking at the Legislative Yuan, Wu pointed out that the recent US$6.4 billion package of arms that Washington announced in late January it wants to sell to Taiwan does not include the advanced F-16 C/D fighter planes and diesel-electric submarines long sought by Taiwan. Taiwan's current fleet of older F-16 A/B fighter jets and submarines are several years old. The arms package instead consists of 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, two Osprey Class mine hunting ships, 12 ATM-84L and RTM-84L Harpoon Block II Telemetry missiles, 114 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles and communications equipment.

Despite the absence of the advanced F-16 planes and the submarines from the list, Wu said, the United States has never shut the door to future sales of F-16 C/D fighters and submarines to Taiwan.

"The two sides are still talking over this matter, " the premier told lawmakers.

Wu noted that military capabilities across the Taiwan Strait have tilted in favor of China for many years. Developing "lean and mean, small, but excellent" weaponry to beef up Taiwan's self-defense preparedness remains Taiwan's basic military policy, he said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense on Tuesday refuted a report by the U.S. government's Defense Intelligence Agency that said many of the island's 400 combat aircrafts would not be able to help Taiwan withstand an attack from rival China.

"In recent years, the Chinese People's Liberation Army has increased the quantity and sophistication of its ballistic and cruise missiles and fighter aircraft opposite Taiwan, which has diminished Taiwan's ability to deny PRC efforts to attain air superiority in a conflict," the U.S. agency's report said.

The one-off report, ordered by the U.S. Congress, says upgrades are needed for Taiwan as China gets stronger.

Discounting the report's description of the Republic of China Air Force's fighter planes as not capable of withstanding an attack from China, Han Keng-sheng, deputy Air Force chief of staff, said the description was untrue.

"Despite being old, our fighter planes are operationally capable of meeting minimum combat needs," Han said.

However, the defense ministry acknowledged it is an undeniable truth that China has become increasingly strong militarily compared to Taiwan.

Both Wu and the defense ministry made the remarks Tuesday in response to reports by foreign wire service agencies from Taipei the day before about the U.S. report. (By Chou Yung-chieh, Sinyao Shih and Deborah Kuo) ENDITEM/cs



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