Taiwan still hoping to buy F-35 fighters from U.S.: defense official

Taipei, Aug. 19 (CNA) Taiwan continues to hope for jet fighters with stealth, short take-off and vertical landing capabilities, a senior defense official said Tuesday, noting that the U.S.-made F-35 is one option that fits the bill. There is "a need" for higher-performance combat airplanes, said Maj. Gen. Chang Wen-shuo, deputy director-general of the Defense Ministry's Department of Strategic Planning, at a regular ministry press conference. Both the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning, both made by Lockheed Martin, are on the purchase list, Chang said, explaining that "necessity" is the top consideration. "The weapons equipment and systems the country wants are those which meet the Republic of China's requirements for defensive warfare, particularly innovative and asymmetric warfare," he said. Asymmetric warfare is an important tactic for Taiwan's armed forces, which are faced with the scenario of unequal military resources in the event of a regional conflict -- most likely against China. When purchasing equipment, it is not "what I want" that matters, but rather "what capabilities" are available, Chang stressed. Asked if his ministry has voiced the intention to the United States, Chang said communications between his ministry and the U.S. are "unhindered" and they have continued to talk about the issue. In an earlier briefing, Chang said the ROC is facing a rising air threat as China continues to increase its military force by producing advanced J-20 and J-31 fighters and mapping out plans to purchase Su-35 fighters and S-400 air defense missiles. The military balance in the Taiwan Strait is tilting toward China, he warned, adding that Taiwan is looking at any aircraft that can outperform its upgraded F-16 A/B jets, including the slightly improved F-16 C/D. (By Kelven Huang and Elizabeth Hsu)