U.S. to announce F-16 upgrade for Taiwan: lobby group

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:14pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration will tell Congress on Friday it plans to upgrade Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets, said sources involved in a deal likely to anger China while disappointing a Taiwan government that was seeking more advanced aircraft.

U.S.-Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers, whose group lobbied for the sale of more advanced F-16 planes, said announcement of the upgrade was "imminent." Congressional sources said consultations with senior lawmakers' staff were expected on Friday.

U.S. arms sales to Taipei are a major point of friction with China, which claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island and has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, especially if Taiwan formally seeks independence.

U.S. President Barack Obama's apparent compromise angered Taiwan's backers.

"It's a bad decision. It undermines Taiwan's ability to modernize its fighter fleet," said Hammond-Chambers.

Taiwan had requested to buy 66 late-model F-16 fighter planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp. Taiwan wants the newer F-16s to bolster its early-model F-16 A/Bs sold by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

The F-16 decision has loomed over U.S.-China relations throughout this year as Washington and Beijing have sought to stabilize ties before both enter political seasons in 2012, when President Barack Obama faces re-election and China's Communist Party leadership changes hands.

A spat over arms sales would add to heated disputes over human rights, Internet censorship, China's exchange rate policies and huge trade surplus with the United States, and counterfeiting. China, which holds more than a $1 trillion in U.S. government debt, complains about U.S. fiscal management.

China is almost certain to complain loudly about Obama's action, which will result in upgraded radar and other improvements to Taiwan's fleet of 150 F-16 A/Bs. Whether it will retaliate is another question.

The Obama administration's authorization of the sale of $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan in January 2010 prompted China's military to suspend all meetings with their Pentagon counterparts and to threaten sanctions against U.S. firms.

Since 2006, the United States has balked at providing the more advanced F-16 C/D models, potentially valued at more than $8 billion, apparently for fear of angering Beijing

Friday's decision "appeases China on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and ignores Congress's view on this matter," said Hammond-Chambers.

A Senate Republican aide said the administration was to brief the staff of congressional leaders and key foreign policy lawmakers on Friday. Official notification of Congress on the arms package, which the Washington Times newspaper put at $4.2 billion, was not expected until next week, the aide said.

"CAPITULATION TO COMMUNIST CHINA"

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, home to an F-16 assembly line that without new orders could close and shed thousands of jobs, reacted angrily to the decision that followed months of his tough lobbying for sales.

"Today's capitulation to Communist China by the Obama Administration marks a sad day in American foreign policy, and it represents a slap in the face to a strong ally and long time friend," he said in a statement.

"This sale would have been a win-win, bolstering the national security of two democratic nations and supporting jobs for an American workforce that desperately needs them," said Cornyn, who this week introduced legislation to require the Obama administration to sell 66 new F-16C/D jets to Taiwan.

The United States is committed under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to supply Taiwan with the weapons it needs to maintain a "sufficient self-defense capability."

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said the U.S. government does not comment on foreign military sales "unless formal congressional notification has taken place."

He added: "Meeting Taiwan's defense needs is a deep and enduring commitment of the United States and this administration is committed to doing so under the terms of the

TRA."

The Pentagon's annual report on China's military power, published this month, noted that Taiwan was falling behind in the face of "ambitious military developments on the mainland" -- including China's deployment of between 1,000 and 1,200 ballistic missiles opposite the island.

Chinese analysts expect a vehement reaction to the announcement because of the sense among China's public that it is growing more powerful as the United States stumbles, and should push back against perceived U.S. insults.

Earlier on Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry repeated its opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. Washington should "avoid any unnecessary disturbance and damage to bilateral ties," the ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Jim Wolf and Susan Cornwell in Washington, and Chris Buckley in Beijing; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Comments (3)
Kailim wrote:
Just to remind senator John Cornyn that the US government did slap in the face very hard to the strong ally and long time friend, Republic Of China or Taiwan whatever you call it. It so happened when the US government broke the diplomatic tie with ROC and admitted the PRC to the UN and its Security Council.

Is the US government trustworthy?

Sep 16, 2011 10:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Kailim:
Kissinger crafted a major reshuffling of the diplomatic ties back when a U.S.-Mainland China liaison was practical and necessary to counter the nuclear and military threat from the Soviet Union.

However, it remains in the American law, a duty to defend Taiwan militarily, if Taiwan is attacked.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the balance of power has changed.

Taiwan, incidentally, has never stopped applying for re-entry into the United Nations. Many of the political reforms in Taiwan were done, with the goal of making their applications impeccable. Since 1970s, their freedom of speech, fairness in democratic election, fight against corruption(with former Presidents not immune to prosecution or challenge) rooting out of counterfeiting, promotion of intellectual property and protection, all showed very significant progress. Their economy has also taken off dramatically, benefiting from the return of Hong Kong to China.

So despite the superficial “betrayal” by the United States, people of Taiwan have gained significantly more wealth, more political and personal freedom, and enjoyed a much more creative and intellectually stimulating environment.

The only “disgrace” is that they are not recognized

The Taiwanese American community takes to the streets and demonstrates for re-admission to the UN yearly in America, though most news media do not cover them. So few know it. They believe that their applications are getting stronger every year because of their efforts to become impeccable in the eyes of the international community in compliance with any criticisms of their democratic government.

By contrast, the CCP has increasingly earned a bad name. Perhaps some of it is from scapegoating, but the handling of the criticisms by the Chinese Government, particularly when they distort the facts and rally public opinion, and then use the so called government crafted “public opinion” to defend their actions, contributed to their reputation becoming worse.

If the Chinese Government plays hard ball and misuses other internal authority or international position to retaliate against the arms sales, China will have to face consequences, namely, from WTO violations, or from other international entity.

After all, the international community, in general, respects the principle of democratic self-determination.

Sep 17, 2011 1:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CommonSensLogic:
You seem to understand a lot about Taiwan-US-China relations. Could You clarify ? From moral point of view I am fully with You. Taiwanese should have own state, democratic, recognized world-wide etc. Any nation should be able to have own state and govern themselves. But then comes real-politik, China is 60 times bigger, permanent member of UN Sec council. US and other great powers would never anger China and allow Taiwan independence. At the same time, fortunately US has strategic interests in Asia-Pacific so for this interests will for some time defend status quo. Taiwanese, as polls show, for decades understand this and also defend status quo. What about arm sales ? Can arms be sold legally to non-state actors under int law ? What is the purpose of these sales (its old crap), apart from US/Western public and show of force ?

Sep 19, 2011 6:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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