U.S. senators push Obama to sell F-16C/Ds to Taiwan
ROC Central News Agency
By Jorge Liu and Sofia Wu
Washington, May 26 (CNA) Nearly half of the members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to President Barack Obama Thursday urging the sale of F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) , which requires the U.S. to provide the island with the arms needed for its own defense.
The letter, initiated by Senate Taiwan Caucus co-chairmen Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said the Senate is very concerned about the growing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait due to the unprecedented scale of China's military buildup.
It urged Obama to move quickly to notify Congress of the sale of 66 F-16C/D aircraft that Taiwan needs in order to modernize its air force and maintain cross-strait peace and stability.
Menendez said earlier that same day at a hearing on Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's nomination for the post of ambassador to China that 45 of his Senate colleagues signed the letter.
Saying it was "very rare" for so many senators across party lines to send such a letter, Menendez urged Locke to be an advocate within the Obama administration for the sale of the jet fighters to Taiwan.
Menendez further said he is "extremely concerned" as China ramps up its military spending while the United States puts off a decision on selling new fighters to Taiwan.
"We will leave Taiwan in a position that is, I think, indefensible at the end of the day," he added.
For his part, Locke said that no decision has been made on the fighter deal but that the U.S. remains firm in its commitment to Taiwan's defense needs.
"The United States stands with Taiwan to ensure that it can defend itself and that its self-defense capabilities are never eroded," Locke said.
The U.S. government switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but Congress at the same time approved the TRA, which requires the U.S. administration to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons to safeguard its own security.
Among the senators who signed the letter were Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Jay Rockefeller, Senate Republican whip Jon Kyl and many other senior senators, as well as 10 first-term senators.
Jason Yuan, Taiwan's representative to the United States, said the support shown by nearly half of the 100-member Senate for the F-16 C/D sale to Taiwan signifies the importance Congress attaches to the TRA.
Expressing his gratitude for the senators' support, Yuan further said he is confident that the U.S. will not back off from its obligations under the TRA.
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