US Senator Proposes Back-Door F-16 Sale to Taiwan

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 pm (UTC-5)
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A U.S. senator says the American Congress may try to push through a sale of advanced F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan even if the Obama administration decides against the sale.

The administration says it will decide by October whether to make the sale, which would almost certainly provoke an angry response from China. But published reports say U.S. officials plan to offer Taiwan an upgrade of its existing jets instead.

Senator John Cornyn, whose Republican party normally opposes Obama administration policies, said Tuesday that a failure to sell Taiwan the 66 aircraft would undermine the island's defense and cost more than 2,000 jobs in the United States.

He said if the deal is not approved, members of Congress may try to include it in the annual defense authorization bill, which funds a wide array of defense programs. President Obama could veto the bill, but that would mean killing the other programs as well.

Taiwan has been pressing the United States to sell it the planes, saying its military is falling behind in an arms race with the mainland despite improving economic relations between the two. U.S. law requires the American government to sell Taiwan sufficient weapons for its own defense.

But China fiercely opposes all arms sales to Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland. The last major U.S. arms sale to Taiwan led to a one-year break in military-to-military relations with China, a relationship that has only recently gotten back on track.