. China News .

Taiwan heartened despite second-best F-16 deal
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Sept 22, 2011

Washington's offer to upgrade Taiwan's fighter jets may mean little in any war with China, but represents a valuable sign of US commitment to help the island's defence, observers and media said Thursday.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, under its control and its growing military and economic might has Taiwan worried if the US will remain a supporter.

Washington announced Wednesday it would equip Taiwan's 146 US-made F-16 A/B jets with new technologies, in a $5.85 billion deal which falls short of the island's fervent wish for 66 new and more powerful F-16 C/Ds.

However, the approval of a substantial upgrade, which drew a furious reaction from China, was widely seen as positive for the island.

"The deal shows that the US is committed to Taiwan's security and the military balance in the Taiwan Strait," said lawmaker and defence expert Lin Yu-fang.

The defence ministry said it was "another signal of the solid foundation for mutual trust and the close security cooperation beteen Taiwan and the United States."

Taiwan applied in 2007 to buy the F-16 C/D fighters, which have better radar and more powerful weapons systems than its F-16 A/Bs, in response to China's growing military muscle.

Defence experts in the United States have argued that Taiwan's jets, once upgraded, will be nearly as capable as the wished-for F-16 C/Ds.

Taiwan's defence minister Kao Hua-chu said Wednesday that "the air force's combat capability will be advanced hugely", but on this military perspective many local observers were less excited.

"It's very much like an old car," said Wung Ming-hsien, a military expert at Tamkang University in Taipei.

"It's been used for 10 years, and now the owner decides to replace its old engine with a new one while the other parts remain unchanged," he said.

However, Taiwanese media voiced doubts that it mattered much in the scheme of things, considering the massive expansion of China's military that has taken place in recent times.

"The arms sale has more political implications than military implications," said the mass-circulation United Daily News. "If China and Taiwan go to war, even F16 C/Ds will not be enough."

China has the world's second-largest economy and is a major holder of US debt, making Washington's policy-making on Taiwan more sensitive than ever.

"Washington has to consider Beijing's economic clout. It can keep the F16 C/D sale as a bargain chip for its future dealing with Beijing," said Shuai Hua-ming, a military expert and lawmaker for the ruling Kuomintang party.

China expressed "great indignation" Thursday over the deal, summoning the US ambassador and warning the move would undermine relations.

Hsu Yung-ming, a political scientist at Soochow University, said that Washington's decision was in fact a coup for the mainland.

"I imagine that in fact the Chinese must be happy on the inside," he said. "It would have been a loss of face for the Chinese if the United States had sold F-16 C/Ds despite their warnings."

But many Taiwan analysts said the US offer was a piece of diplomatic craftmanship that showed commitment to the defence of democratic Taiwan, while averting what would have been an even angrier China reaction over a sale.

"This is a US compromise to satisfy some of Taiwan's defence needs and maintain friendly ties with Taiwan without touching China's bottom-line by selling new jets," said Kenneth Wang, a military expert at Tamkang University.

Even though the United States shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, it is obliged by US law to provide the island with sufficient defensive means -- a source of perennial tension with Beijing.

Related Links
Taiwan News at SinoDaily.com


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China says US-Taiwan arms deal will harm ties
Beijing (AFP) Sept 22, 2011
China warned that a $5.85 billion deal announced Wednesday to upgrade Taiwan's fleet of F16 fighter jets would damage Sino-US relations, calling on America to stop arms sales to the island. Chinese vice foreign minister Zhang Zhijun was instructed to summon US ambassador to China Gary Locke and lodge a strong protest, China's official Xinhua news agency said. "The wrongdoing by the US si ... read more

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