President Obama has made a decision to sell a new arms package to Taiwan—but it’s not the one Taipei or many in Congress were calling for, according to the Washington Times.
The U.S. has decided not to sell Taiwan 66 late-model F-16 aircraft, a deal potentially valued at over $8 billion, after years of debate over whether to supply the island with advanced strike aircraft to upgrade its aging air force. Instead, administration and congressional officials told the Times, the new arms package will include weapons and equipment to upgrade on its existing F-16 jets, worth about $4.2 billion.
“All we’ve been told is the president has made a decision, and I assume it will be for the F-16 A/B upgrade package,” a senior congressional aide told the paper. While Congress will be briefed on Friday about the package, a formal announcement is expected soon, according to the Times.
China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, cut off most of its military-to-military contacts last year when the Obama administration signed off on the sale of $6.4 billion of military equipment to Taiwan. While the United States recognizes Taiwan as a separate state and committed in 1979 to supply the island with the weapons it needs to defend itself, it has been busily working to repair the frayed military relationship with China. Consideration of this concerted priority to improve relations with China is one reason the Obama administration chose to sell Taiwan the new package, according to the Times report.
Congress has been calling for the administration to sell the full package of jets, which Taiwan has been trying to purchase since 2006. On Tuesday, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced the Taiwan Airpower Modernization Act, meant to force the administration to provide Taiwan with the military equipment it needs to maintain its “self-defense capabilities,” according to a press release. In August, a bipartisan group of 181 House members sent a letter to Obama urging him to sell the F-16s, echoing a May letter signed by 45 senators calling for the same thing.
According to the legislation, the sale would generate $8.7 billion in gross product and nearly 88,000 person-years of employment in the U.S., including more than 23,000 direct jobs. “Economic benefits would likely be realized in 44 states,” the legislation says.
Still, selling the jets -- a move sure to anger China -- could have ramifications for U.S. debt holdings. After the announcement of the administration's sale to Taiwan last year, Chinese military leaders called for a "sanction" on the U.S. by calling in some of the $1.1 trillion in China's Treasury debt holdings in retaliation for what Beijing saw as an interference in its internal affairs.