THE US GOVERNMENT’S approval of Taipei’s long-sought $8 billion purchase of 66 F-16 warplanes and ancillary kit has drawn the predictable condemnation from Beijing.
The notice that Washington would go ahead with the sale was contained in a mandatory notification to the US Congress issued on Tuesday by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency. It follows the agency’s announcement of a $2.2 billion intended sale to Taipei of 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment.
Taiwan’s air force currently flies ageing F-16s bought in 1992, although upgraded several times since. The US Congress still needs to approve the latest sale.
China says the sale of the fighter jets would be a violation of international law and international relations and of the One China policy, under which Washington formally recognises Beijing, not Taipei. It deployed similar language regarding the One China policy against the sale of the tanks.
This time, however, It has also threatened sanctions against US firms involved with the sale, which would most prominently be Lockheed Martin and General Electric.
Hitherto, the Trump administration has been relative restrained in its arms deals with Taiwan. Its two predecessors (the Obama and Bush administrations) both made bigger sales in aggregate.
However, this latest proposed sale ups the ante, and would be favoured in Washington by both those who will see it as a way to apply pressure on Beijing over the US-China trade talks and those who are security hawks on China.