- The Trump administration has given “tacit approval” to Taiwan’s request for 60 new F-16 fighter jets, Bloomberg News reported.
- The sale has yet to be officially approved, but China is already furious and protesting it.
- “China’s position to firmly oppose US arms sales to Taiwan is consistent and clear,” the Chinese foreign ministry said. “We have urged the US to fully recognize the sensitivity of this issue and the harm it will cause.”
The Trump administration is reportedly ready to approve the sale of dozens of new fighter jets to Taiwan, and China is not happy about it, Bloomberg News reported.
Taiwan has requested 60 new F-16s that are more capable than the last batch of fighters the US sold Taiwan nearly three decades ago. The island country asked the US for new fighters in 2011, but the Obama administration, hesitant to challenge China, rejected the request, offering to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet instead.
The island’s fleet of roughly 150 Block 20 F-16A/B fighters is currently being upgraded to the F-16V standard, providing capabilities nearly identical to the advanced Block 70 F-16s Taiwan is looking to buy now, The War Zone reported. Taiwan’s military received its first upgraded F-16 last fall.
“China’s position to firmly oppose US arms sales to Taiwan is consistent and clear,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday. “We have made stern representations to the US. We have urged the US to fully recognize the sensitivity of this issue and the harm it will cause.”
He demanded the US stop selling arms to Taiwan and sever military ties with Taipei.
Taiwan submitted a request for a fleet of new fighters earlier this month, leaving the request weirdly open to US input.
“The F-15, F-18, F-16 and even the F-35 are all among our options,” Major Gen. Tang Hung-an, head of the Taiwanese Air Force Command Headquarters Planning Division said, adding that anything is possible “as long as the jets help to strengthen our air defense capabilities.”
President Donald Trump’s advisers have reportedly pushed Taiwan to submit a formal request for advanced F-16s, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The US is said to have turned down an earlier request from Taiwan for F-35s.
While the Trump administration has apparently given “tacit approval” to the sale, any official transaction must first be presented as a formal Department of Defense and Department of State proposal and sent to Congress for a decision.
Taiwan has been a point of contention between the Trump administration and Beijing since before the president officially took office, and Taiwan-related issues, among other problems, have continued to stress the US-China relationship.
Not only did Trump openly question US policy on Taiwan, but the president also approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan in June 2017, angering the Chinese government. And then in September last year, the US agreed to a $330 million arms sale to bolster the island’s combat capabilities.
The US Navy also routinely sends warships through the Taiwan Strait, which Beijing fears emboldens pro-independence forces in Taiwan. Beijing has responded with tough rhetoric, including senior leadership refusing to abandon the possibility of forced reunification – a dangerous contingency for which an outgunned Taiwan is struggling to prepare.