Taiwan needs more advanced high-performance jets: defense ministry
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, May 19 (CNA) Taiwan needs high-performance jet fighters that are more advanced than its existing fleet, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday, after it was reported that the U.S. House of Representatives voted in agreement to sell F-16 C/D jets to Taiwan to address the disparity in air power across the Taiwan Strait.
"The Republic of China (Taiwan) is presently preparing to upgrade its F-16 A/B fleet," the ministry's spokesman Luo Shou-he said, adding if Taiwan does procures new jets, their performance level should exceed that of the upgraded planes.
Luo noted that he could not confirm the validity of reports on the U.S. Congress supporting the sale of the jets to Taiwan at the time the interview was conducted, and declined to comment further on the issue.
According to AFP reports, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of approving Taiwan's request to buy 66 F-16 C/D jets late Thursday (U.S. time) and also backed plans under way to upgrade existing aircrafts.
Last September, the U.S. approved a US$5.85 billion arms sale package to upgrade the country's 100 plus aging F-16 A/B planes, which have been in service for more than a decade. At that time, Washington said Taiwan's request to procure F-16 C/Ds was under review.
Despite the retrofit package, Taiwan has been eager to procure new jets and enhance its defense capability amid concerns over China's growing military strength.
Last month, the White House said in a letter to Republican Senator John Cornyn that the idea of selling new jets to Taiwan warrants "serious consideration, given the growing military threat to Taiwan."
"We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490," wrote Robert Nabors, a White House aide and director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
(By Nancy Liu)
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