Last month China’s military predictably slammed Washington’s recent approval to send $2.2 billion in arms to Taiwan, and now there’s an administration push supported by Republicans in the Senate to “move quickly” on a proposed $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan at a moment when the next round of US-China trade negotiations hangs in the balance, as The Washington Post reports:
The Trump administration is moving ahead with for an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan despite strong objections from China, a U.S. official and others familiar with the deal said Thursday.
Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on Friday urged Congress to move quickly with the sale given China “seeks to extend its authoritarian reach” over the region.
This despite Beijing condemning any and all further weapons sales to Taiwan, which it maintains historic claims over, and taking the further significant step of threatening sanction on any US companies involved in such weapons deals.
The New York Times on Friday also confirmed the proposed F-16 plan, based on State Department statements:
The State Department told Congress Thursday night, right after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had signed a memo approving the sale, officials said. Congress is not expected to object to the move. For weeks, lawmakers from both parties had accused the administration of delaying the sale to avoid jeopardizing trade negotiations or to use it as a bargaining chip.
Texas senator Cruz said it is critical “now more than ever” for Taiwan’s defense capabilities to be significantly increased amid threats from China.
China this summer indicated it stands “ready to go to war” if people “try to split Taiwan from the country” — this after the US approved sales of tanks and Stinger missiles to Taiwan in July. Beijing authorities also said the US and breakaway Taiwan were “playing with fire” due to their growing military ties, which the US by treaty is obligated to honor.
The proposed major addition to Taiwan’s current ageing fleet of F-16s comes after prior Chinese media reports last March said Taipei requested from the US a fleet of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter jets.
This also corresponds to Taiwan on Thursday unveiling its largest defense spending increase in over a decade, to T$411.3 billion ($13.11 billion.), according to Reuters.