Trump approves F-16 sale to Taiwan

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In this Feb. 24, 2019, file photo, U.S. fighter aircraft F-16 perform aerobatic maneuvers on the last day of Aero India 2019 at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore, India. The Trump administration has informed Congress it plans to sell F-16 fighters worth $8 billion to Taiwan in a move that will inflame already high tensions with China. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi, File)

TAIPEI (CNA) — U.S. President Donald Trump has approved a plan by his administration to sell new F-16 fighter jets valued at US$8 billion to Taiwan.

“I mean, I’ve approved the deal,” Trump said as he boarded a plane in New Jersey late last week. “Got to be approved by the Senate, but I’ve approved the deal, he said.”

“It’s US$8 billion. It’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of jobs,” Trump said, “It’s a great aircraft. And we really believe — or we perhaps wouldn’t have done it — they’re going to use it very responsibly.”

Trump made the statement after the Washington Post reported Friday that the U.S. State Department had submitted the package to Congress late Thursday for informal review.

Several U.S. Congress members voiced their support Friday for the plan.

One of the U.S. lawmakers who lent support to the arms sale, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, commended the U.S. administration for moving forward with the sale to strengthen Taiwan’s defense capabilities.

“As the Chinese government and Communist Party seeks to extend its authoritarian reach in the region, it is critical that the United States continues to enhance our strategic relationship with our democratic partner Taiwan through regular and consistent support,” Rubio said in a statement.

Joining Rubio, Senator Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John Cornyn, praised the sale of the F-16 models to Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) made a request to the U.S. in late February to purchase 66 F-16Vs. Progress seemed to be stalled earlier this year as the Trump administration did not inform Congress of the proposed arms sale before Congress went into recess July 26.

According to AFP, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the sophisticated fighter jets, said the newest of the F-16 version, the F-16 Block 70/72, is equipped with advanced avionics, weapons and radar technologies that did not exist in earlier models when they were created.

Taiwan purchased a fleet of old F-16 models in 1992 and between that purchase and now, the jets have undergone several upgrades.

On Saturday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she welcomed the move by Washington to press ahead with the sale of F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan, saying that the gesture symbolizes the stable relations between the two countries.

Tsai added that the new fighter jets will enhance Taiwan’s air power and defensive capabilities, and will help meet its defense needs.

By Chiang Chin-yeh, Chen Yi-wei and Frances Huang