TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s government expressed appreciation Monday to U.S. President Donald Trump for approving the sale of F-16V multi-role fighter jets amid increasing threats and coercion from Beijing.
Trump confirmed a day earlier that he had approved the US$8 billion F-16V deal and that he believes Taiwan will use the planes responsibly, according to a transcript provided by the White House of a media interview with the president.
In late February, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) made a request to the United States to purchase 66 F-16Vs. The progress appeared to be stalled earlier this year as the U.S. executive department did not inform Congress of the proposed arms sale before it went into recess July 26.
With the development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the MND were elated, especially at a time when Beijing is stepping up its coercion against Taiwan in the form of harsh rhetoric, military drills and island encirclement flights.
“MOFA welcomes and expresses appreciation for Trump’s confirmation of his approval of the sale of new-generation F-16V fighters to our country,” MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said in a statement.
She also thanked the Trump administration for adhering to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and fulfilling its commitment in accordance with the “Six Assurances” at a time when the two countries are commemorating the 40th anniversary of the TRA.
The TRA was signed by then-President Jimmy Carter in April 1979, when the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing as a legal basis for Washington to maintain commercial, cultural and other relations with Taipei.
The Six Assurances are six key foreign policy principles of the U.S. regarding its relations with Taiwan, agreed by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan in July 1982.
MOFA also mentioned that the military deal will strengthen Taiwan’s air defense capability amid China’s increasing war games around Taiwan and its provocations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which threaten Taiwan’s freedom and democracy, as well as regional peace and stability.
At the same time, the MND said in a statement Monday that it hopes the U.S. Congress will approve the deal as soon as possible to benefit the peace and security across the Taiwan Strait and the Asia- Pacific region as a whole.
The MND said it will maintain close contact with the U.S. side for progress on the deal.
On Saturday, the Air Force described the F-16V as a whole new version of the F-16 A/B, Taiwan’s main guardian of its air space for the past two decades. The F-16V has greater thrust, a longer range, more streamlined frame and more advanced radar and attack systems, the Air Force said on its Facebook page Saturday.
On the other hand, the camp of Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the opposition Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) 2020 presidential candidate, released a rare statement Monday amid doubts that the seemingly China-friendly mayor will drop the deal should he win the 2020 presidential election.
“The KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu applauds President Donald Trump’s decision to approve the sale of new F-16 fighters to Taiwan,” the statement said. “If elected president, Han pledges to deepen U.S.-Taiwan security and military relationships and make Taiwan a robust peace defender.”
While supporting arms procurement, the statement also said Han’s cross-Taiwan Strait policy will be a synchronized one, which is different from the present Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Administration’s confrontational approach toward China.
Meanwhile, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), Washington’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, declined to comment on the proposed arms sale “until officially notified by Congress.”
“At this point, the F-16 sale has not been notified to Congress,” the AIT said.
By Emerson Lim