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Taiwan strategically important to U.S. defense: experts

ROC Central News Agency

2012/03/29 22:03:01

Washington D.C., March 28 (CNA) Taiwan is strategically important to the United States' defense and should not be ignored by the U.S. government, experts at a hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

The retrofits of Taiwan's existing fleet of 145 F-16 A/B fighter jets passed by the U.S. Congress in 2011 are insufficient to meet Taiwan's defense needs, said Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center.

Taiwan's total number of planes in the air will be greatly reduced as aircraft are pulled offline for an extended period of time during the upgrades, he added,

Instead of providing the more advanced F-16 C/D fighters as has been repeatedly requested by Taiwan, the U.S. announced late last year a program to retrofit the island's ageing F-16 A/B fleet.

"The proposed F-16 C/Ds (jets) were to replace aircraft that were designed in the 1950s, and not doing so basically means that Taiwan has an air force that through sheer attrition and age will be reduced over time without China having to do anything," Cheng said.

Taiwan will be affected politically if the U.S. fails to deliver the upgrades, Cheng said, adding U.S. arms sales to Taiwan should be more than jet upgrades.

The U.S. needs to implement cohesive strategies and actions when dealing with Taiwan and regions around the island, he suggested.

"The upgrade helps but is insufficient for Taiwan," said Larry Wortzel, commissioner of United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, adding Taiwan has good military equipment but is missing crucial items.

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-Oh) focused on the issue of Taiwan's ability to develop its defense under the pressure of China's military escalation.

Taiwan has sophisticated basic military structures. It has radars based in mountains that can be used to detect Chinese missiles, and deep water ports close to southern Japan, which can dock diesel-electric submarines in the future, responded John Tkacik, Director of the Future Asia Project of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

China has been increasing its military expenditure and by 2015 the amount spent by the country will exceed the total spent in 12 neighboring countries, said Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl).

(By Liao Han-yuan and C.J. Lin)

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