March 10, 2009 / 11:51 AM / 10 years ago

U.S. declines to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan: MP

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The U.S. government has declined to make a long-awaited sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan for fear of upsetting China, Taiwan’s parliament speaker said on Tuesday.

The White House blocked the $4.9 billion deal for 66 advanced F-16s last year and there was little hope of it being revived this year, said Wang Jin-pyng.

“The U.S. doesn’t want to give them to us,” Wang told Reuters in an interview.

“They wouldn’t name a price. It’s mainly because mainland China would oppose the sale.”

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (KMT) fled to the island.

Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary, and opposes all U.S. arms sales to the island. Washington recognizes China diplomatically and is seeking to improve relations with the Asian economic powerhouse.

Although China-Taiwan ties have improved since President Ma Ying-jeou took office on the island last year, deep military distrust lingers between the two sides.

Taiwan first asked to buy new F-16s in 2007 after approving substantial funding for the aircraft. Wang said Taiwan’s current fleet is 16 years old, Wang said.

The U.S. Pacific Command said in July that U.S. policymakers saw no pressing need to sell advanced arms to Taiwan.

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