Trump pushes forward with sale of F-16V warplanes despite China complaints

US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan still on despite trade talks, China objections

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F-16V. (Lockheed Martin image)

F-16V. (Lockheed Martin image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After numerous delays, the Trump administration is again moving ahead with the sale of 66 F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan, despite renewed trade talks with Beijing over the U.S.-China trade war.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense applied to buy 66 F16-V (Viper) fighter jets at the recommendation of the U.S. government on February 27. There had been reports in Taiwan that Trump had put the deal hold for fear of upsetting Beijing during the contentious U.S.-China trade talks.

However, two officials told Foreign Policy (FP) that the deal had actually been delayed due to longer-than-expected "negotiations over price and configuration of aircraft." Officials told FP that the goal is to move to the next stage of the proposed sale during Congress's recess in August.

The arms sale has not yet reached completion, and the request for the purchase must be agreed upon by both the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department before being formally submitted to Congress. The U.S. Congress will then have 30 days to comment on the arms sale proposal.

The proposed sale of the upgraded fighter jets to Taiwan has already raised hackles in Beijing. Geng Shuang (耿爽), a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in March that "China's resolute opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan is consistent and firm, and the country has lodged solemn representations with the United States over the issue."

Geng then urged the U.S. to "fully recognize the high sensitivity and severe harm of [the] relevant issue and abide by the one-China principle and the three Sino-U.S. joint communiques, especially the Aug. 17 Communique." He then called on the U.S. to completely stop arms sales and military contact with Taiwan "and prudently handle Taiwan-related issues to avoid severely damaging the Sino-U.S. cooperation in important spheres as well as the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait."


F-16V. (Lockheed Martin photo)

The report points out that U.S.-China relations are in a delicate phase, and if the arms sale does progress, Beijing is bound to protest. When Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, over the weekend, he resumed U.S.-China trade talks and relaxed restrictions on sales by U.S. companies to Huawei.

However, the report asserted that the easing of tensions between the U.S. and China may only be temporary. The U.S. is still worried about China's economic structure, the theft of American technology, and continuing military base construction in the South China Sea.

According to the report, the Trump administration has recently become concerned that China may invade Taiwan sooner than expected. In January, Xi warned that we would not rule out the use of force against "separatists" and Taiwan independence activities.

When questioned by FP for comment on the sale of F-16Vs to Taiwan, the State Department officials said that they could not comment on nor confirm any defense sales until they are formally notified by Congress. If finally approved, the sale would be the first time Taiwan has bought F-16s from the U.S. since 1992.

The biggest advantage of the new F-16Vs is the new AN/APG-83 AESA radar which can search, track, and lock on to multiple targets, CNA reports. The jets also include upgraded mission computers and cockpit dashboards, new helmet-mounted displays, and come equipped with the latest AIM-9X sidewinder missiles.