TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) – According to Bloomberg News, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved the sale of 66 F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan, even though the exact time of delivery remains unknown, likely after 2021, because of changes in production lines within manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
Soon after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen admitted to filing an official procurement plan for 66 F-16V to the U.S., President Trump reportedly provided a “tacit approval” to the matter, even though a formal proposal from Department of Defense and Department of State is needed for Congress to make further decisions.
Before the process of the request, the Trump administration is already known for having encouraged Taiwan to buy weapons from the U.S., and the White House so far has refused to comment nor confirm the issue.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) criticized the news on March 22, saying that China urged the U.S. to stop the military transaction with Taiwan, which China believes is a breakaway province.
Since Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush last sold 160 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in 1992, succeeding U.S. administrations, including former president Obama, have long refused to sell any fighter jets to Taiwan in fear of angering China.
Also seen as a fallout of the protracted U.S.-China trade war, the transaction will make the first time since nearly 3 decades the U.S. begins to sell fighter fleets to the island country if the report is true.
Nonetheless, even before Taiwan submitted the request, the Trump administration has multiply infuriated China for having navy warships transit through international waters such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, raising disputes between both countries at critical moments. The report also noted that Taiwan will not acquire what it purchases shortly.
According to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson, the aerospace defense manufacturer is currently relocating the aircraft productions from Texas to South Carolina, and the earliest time for its production lines to settle will be in 2021 as orders from Bahrain will be processed first.