Taiwan has signed a 62-billion-dollar deal to purchase F-16 fighter jets from the United States. The deal is the biggest weapons sale to have been concluded between Washington and Taipei and is sure to further increase the already extremely high tensions with China.
Under the deal, which was announced by the Pentagon last Friday, the US has agreed to sell 90 F-16 fighter jets from US-based aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin to Taiwan over a span of about 10 years.
The self-ruled island, which China considers part of its territory, obtained the green light from Washington last year to buy 66 new generation F-16s to modernize its air force, however no agreement was concluded at the time.
The deal marks the first time since 1992 that advanced fighter jets have been sold to Taiwan and is expected to infuriate China, which has repeatedly warned Washington against selling advanced weaponry to Taipei.
Following media reports of the agreement last year, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry called on the US to “refrain” from selling the “fighter jets to Taiwan and stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan.”
“Otherwise, the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions, and the US will have to bear all the consequences.”
China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan under the “One China” policy, and most countries recognize that sovereignty, saying the island is part of China’s territory awaiting reunification.
The US also recognizes Chinese sovereignty over the island but at the same time maintains relations with Taipei as a bargaining chip in its geopolitical rivalry with Beijing.
Although Washington has no diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, it is the island’s largest weapons supplier and has been a consistent supporter of Taiwan’s secessionist-minded president Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai has rejected Beijing’s stance that Taiwan is part of “One China” and instead views the island as “already independent.”
Washington also regularly conducts military patrols and exercises around the self-governed island, including regular over flights and sailing its warships through the strategic Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from China.
Relations between the United States and China have hit the lowest level in decades under US President Donald Trump. The two countries are at loggerheads over a range of issues, including trade, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, the US navy said in a statement that a strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan had conducted military exercises in the South China Sea. According to the statement, the strike group carried out flight operations as well as high-end maritime stability operations and drills at the disputed sea. LINK
China does not rule out the use of force to bring the island under its full control, and if Taiwan and the US take their relations and joint military cooperation much further China may well consider that it has no choice but to use force to occupy the island.
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