NEW YORK The reported upgrade of Taiwan's F-16 A/B jet fighters would provide essentially the same quality as new F-16 C/Ds at a far lower price, a senior U.S. government official told reporters on Monday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to confirm reports the United States plans to upgrade Taiwan's existing fleet of more than 140 F-16 A/Bs in advance of notifying Congress, which will occur on Wednesday afternoon.
The Obama administration appears to have been stung by criticism over the proposal to upgrade the aircraft, which was first reported by the Washington Times newspaper last week.
The official sought to dispel any view that Washington was letting down Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China regards as a renegade province. Taiwan is one of the thorniest issues between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies.
"Our view is that something has gotten lost in translation in the last couple of days on this issue," the official told reporters.
"First, the U.S. is profoundly committed to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and that commitment remains unwavering. Second, the scale and pace of defense article sales to Taiwan over the past two and a half years is unprecedented," the official added.
"Assuming the decision is to upgrade F-16 A/Bs, they will provide essentially the same quality as new F-16 C/D aircraft at a far cheaper price."