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US to upgrade Taiwan jets

(Global Times)

16:15, September 21, 2011

China on Tuesday stated once more its strong opposition to any US arms sales to Taiwan, as the Obama administration chose to upgrade Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets but not to equip it with newer planes.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China's resolute and strong opposition to US arms sales to Taiwan is consistent and clear.

On Monday, Hong also urged the US to abide by its three joint communiqués with China, in which the US committed to limiting arms sales to Taiwan.

The Obama administration informally told US lawmakers on Friday that it would upgrade Taiwan's 140-plus existing F-16 A/B jets but would defer on Taipei's request for the more advanced F-16 C/Ds, Reuters reported.

The US plans to supply Taiwan with new arms and sophisticated radar equipment for its existing F-16 fighter fleet as part of an upgrade package valued at around $5.85 billion, a senior US official said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"I do not have the impression that anything is being held back, frankly," said the official, referring to Taiwan's request for the "retrofit" of about 145 F-16 A/Bs sold by the US in 1992.

Taiwan seeks to purchase 66 advanced F-16 C/Ds from the US to modernize its military force, however, the offer didn't receive positive answers from the US.

Even US Congressional Republicans and some Democrats have strongly backed the sales of advanced fighters to Taiwan but the White House ignored these pleas.

The Obama administration has realized the sensitivity, and has taken into account military relations with China, Ni Feng, a deputy director of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The decision represents a compromise, aiming at improving Taipei's defensive ability, while assuaging Beijing's increasing concerns, said Shi Yinhong, director of the US Study Center at the Renmin University of China.

The US arms sales to Taiwan have been a thorny issue for bilateral ties, including seeing military exchanges between Beijing and Washington suspended in 2010 after a more than $6 billion US arms package to Taiwan.

This latest decision would impact Sino-US military ties, Ni said, adding that even upgrading Taiwan's existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets damages China's interests.

China would take appropriate countermeasures to deal with it, depending on the scale of the deal, Ni said.

Agencies contributed to this story

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