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Taiwan urges U.S. to approve F16s sale to avoid conflict

ROC Central News Agency

2011/08/09 20:32:35

By Zep Hu and C.J. Lin

Washington DC, Aug 8 (CNA) The United States can avoid direct involvement in maintaining cross-strait peace if it decides to sell F-16 C/D fighter jets and other technologically advanced weapons to Taiwan, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang said Tuesday.

In an interview with Defense News magazine, Yang said if Taiwan loses its defense capability, it will have a direct impact on peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.

Taiwan is still awaiting Washington's final decision on the sales of 66 fighter jets. Without the F-16 fighter jets, Taiwan will lose its air force advantage, and it will be difficult for the island to maintain peace in the region, Yang said.

"Washington sometimes does not get the right picture of Taiwan's responsibility," Yang was quoted as saying in the magazine. "That is part of the reason we want new fighters. Otherwise, the U.S. has to send its own military to replace our daily patrols in the region."

In a worst-case scenario of a Chinese takeover of Taiwan by political or military means, the People's Liberation Army would establish military bases around the island and would be able to project its power and influence in the East China Sea and South China Sea, which would damage U.S. interests in the region, Yang said.

Asked how China is likely to react to a U.S. decision to sell F-16 C/D fighter jets to Taiwan, Yang said China will be extremely upset. The People's Republic of China (P.R.C) has classified every single arms sale to Taiwan "as a red line for 30 years," he said.

He said relations between Washington and Beijing would become tense and may regress for a short period of time, but would quickly recover since the two nations share many interests and work together in many areas.

"Beijing is increasing their influence over Washington's decision making not only over Taiwan, but over other important regional and global issues," Yang said.

"I think Beijing considers that both sides (Taiwan and China) can create a new kind of status quo based on engagement," he said. "It doesn't mean that Beijing is reducing its military preparations over Taiwan, but they think twice in terms of their approach."

Although Taiwan's cross-strait policies in recent years have resulted in a de-escalation of tensions between the two sides, China has not reduced the number of missiles it has pointed at Taiwan, nor has Beijing's top leadership made any new public statements on the issue, Yang noted.

In light of China's 1,400-plus short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, the best option for Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) at the moment is "to maintain a strong deterrence in the face of a growing Chinese military threat," according to the Defense News report.

Asked if China will become increasingly adventuristic in the wake of a weak U.S. economy, Yang said Chinese leaders do not appear to be taking advantage of the current economic situation to advance China's strategic interest in the region.

"If you look at Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington earlier this year, it seems to me that from the policy maker's point of view, they don't look at each other as enemies," he said.

"I don't think Beijing will take drastic economic actions against the U.S., because they have a lot of investments, including huge foreign reserves in U.S. banks," he said. "If the U.S. economy suffers, Beijing suffers."

Yang has sat on the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies as secretary-general and was previously an adviser to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council.

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