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Pentagon to recommend Taiwan buy F-35B, AV-8B fighters: report

ROC Central News Agency

2011/09/21 20:48:32

By Tony Liao and Sofia Wu

Washington, Sept. 20 (CNA) A U.S. Defense Department study has concluded that Taiwan should buy short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets such as the British-designed AV-8B Harrier jump jet or the new F-35B vertical-takeoff jet, the Washington Times reported Monday.

The Pentagon will deliver the congressionally-mandated study on Taiwan's air power to Capitol Hill later this week, the newspaper said.

Citing U.S. officials familiar with military aircraft, the report said the Pentagon conclusion was based on anticipated mainland Chinese missile strikes against Taiwan's airfields with cratering munitions that would thwart takeoffs by F-16s and other fighter jets.

"A defense official said that conclusion appears skewed to support the administration's decision not to sell new F-16s by highlighting airstrip vulnerability," said the report.

As a matter of fact, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense already came up with a proposal during the George W. Bush administration to procure AV-8B Harrier jump jets.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times report said the Pentagon is bracing for some cutbacks in military and other cooperation efforts with China as a result of a new arms package for Taiwan.

The administration of President Barack Obama is expected to announce as early as Wednesday the sale of a package of equipment and weapons worth US$5.8 billion to upgrade Taiwan's F-16 A/B fighter fleet. In agreeing to the upgrade, the Obama adminsitration, however, will reject Taiwan's proposal to buy 66 new and more advanced F-16 C/Ds.

The Washington Times cited U.S. officials familiar with internal assessments of the arms sale in reporting that China will cut off several military exchanges with U.S. Pacific Command, cancel some high-level visits and end limited cooperation with Washington on arms proliferation.

However, the report said officials do not expect a complete break in military ties with Beijing.

"China does not want a major disruption in relations," said one official, who noted that Beijing's key priority is to avoid a spat with the United States as Communist leaders prepare for the transition from President Hu Jintao to Vice President Xi Jinping, set for the fall of 2012.

The Chinese military on its own, however, could undertake some reprisals, as it did in 2007 by blocking the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk from making a scheduled Thanksgiving Day port call to Hong Kong, the report said.

The study on Taiwan's air power was initiated by Republican Senator John Cornyn, who called for an amendment to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that required the Pentagon to come up with such a report within three months after the act took effect. The report came 19 months late.

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