US Commander: China Holds Advantage in Taiwan Strait

Posted September 27th, 2011 at 2:08 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The man in charge of U.S. forces in the Pacific says new arms sales to Taiwan will not shift the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

Admiral Robert Willard told reporters Tuesday that China retains a military advantage despite Washington's $5.85 billion deal to upgrade Taiwan's fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

Willard told a news conference in Washington the deal would help narrow the gap between Taiwan and China but that China still has more firepower because of its ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland by force, if necessary, and has complained about the sale of U.S. technology.

Despite the tension, Willard said he doubted the arms deal would have any long-term impact on growing ties between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. He said there were too many important issues to let the new arms deal with Taiwan stand in the way.

The U.S. is obligated by law to provide Taiwan with weapons for its defense.

Taiwan has been asking since 2007 to purchase 66 F-16 C/D aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin Corporation. The C/Ds have better radar and more powerful weapons systems than the current fleet of A/Bs, but a U.S. official said an upgrade would bring the existing planes to essentially the same level as the C/Ds.

A senior U.S. State Department official told reporters Monday that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has warned the $5.85 billion sale would undermine trust and confidence between the two world powers.