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US House panel urges fighter jet sale to Taiwan
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2011

A key US House of Representatives panel on Thursday approved bills urging the sale of new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan and letting its leaders travel more freely to the United States, steps opposed by Beijing.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the legislation by voice vote.

President Barack Obama's administration on September 21 announced a $5.85 billion upgrade of Taiwan's 146 aging F-16 A/B jets, saying that the move would allow the island to bolster its defenses against a rapidly growing China.

But a number of lawmakers have pushed the administration to sell 66 of the new and more powerful F-16 C/Ds, a longstanding request of leaders on the self-governing island which China claims as part of its territory.

The two bills that cleared the committee urge Obama to provide the more potent jets, which Taiwan had sought in response to China's military ramp-up.

One of the measures calls for adding Taiwan to the list of countries benefiting from a US travel visa waiver program and boosting travel by senior Taiwan officials to the United States and vice versa.

"Why is it that the president of a democratic partner of the United States is not allowed to visit this country, except as part of transit stops to other countries?" said the committee's top Democrat, Representative Howard Berman.

"It's time that all Taiwanese officials are afforded the proper respect and be allowed to visit the United States," he said.

One of the bills also urges the Obama administration to seek a free trade agreement with Taiwan.

The legislation could clear the full House but its fate is unclear in the Senate, where similar efforts to push for the sale of the F-16s has stalled.

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Taiwan military drills China D-Day style attack
Chiatung, Taiwan (AFP) Nov 17, 2011 - Taiwan's military on Thursday carried out a major manoeuvre in the south of the island, testing its ability to withstand a D-Day style attack by China.

The drill pitted a marine brigade, acting as an enemy landing force, against a motorised infantry brigade defending the island, according to the defence ministry.

The air force had planned to have four aircraft, including a US-made F-16, land on and take off from a sealed-off section of a highway near the southern city of Pingtung, but had to skip that part of the drill due to low visibility.

Ties between Taiwan and China have improved drastically since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became president in 2008 promising to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island.

But China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949, and has vowed to get it back, by force if necessary.

As a result, China continues to build up its military facing Taiwan, focusing especially on weaponry that can help bring the island to its knees, should the need arise.

Taiwanese experts estimate that China has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island and has recently deployed a new type of ballistic missile despite improving ties.


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Taiwan opposition claims China interfering in polls
Taipei (AFP) Nov 13, 2011
Taiwan's main opposition claimed Sunday that Beijing was colluding with the country's China-friendly government to ensure its re-election in January polls, triggering a rebuttal from the ruling party. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), less friendly with the mainland than the ruling Kuomintang, said China was actively backing President Ma Ying-Jeou's re-election bid as the parties are l ... read more

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