Two top GOP Senators have urged President Donald Trump to sell F-35 or F-16 jets to Taiwan in order to reinforce their air defense in an attempt to deter China’s aggressive military posture.”
James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate Armed Services Committee member and Senate Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked President Trump in a letter to “commit to providing new, U.S.-made fighters to aid in Taiwan’s self-defense.”
“After years of military modernization, China shows the ability to wage war against Taiwan for the first time since the 1950s. However, with your leadership, it is possible to help Taiwan remain a democracy, free to establish a relationship with China that is not driven by military coercion,” wrote the senators.
Taiwan defense officials have publicly confirmed earlier this month that they are still interested in attaining the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 fighter jets. Inhofe and Cornyn mentioned in their letter to President Trump that Tsai Ing-wen had particularly enquired about purchasing the Marine Corps’ F-35B variant – the jet that has the ability to take off and land vertically.
The sale of the F-35 jet will be an addition to the maturing fleet of the F-16 Fighting Falcons in Taiwan– the ones that the U.S had sold to Taiwan in 1993. According to the senators, the aged and declining F-16 planes – including the 150 original fighter planes and 65 planes that are field-ready – are “not enough to maintain a credible defense” in opposition to China.
“The survivability of the F-35B and modern long-range sensors could help Taiwan intercept Chinese missiles, promoting deterrence well into the next decade,” wrote the senators in the letter to President Trump.
According to Cornyn and Inhofe, President Trump should sell new and better planes such as Lockheed F-16Vs to Taiwan in order to assist them in strengthening their air defenses.
“If Taiwan’s air defense fleet is allowed to degenerate in number and quality, I am concerned that it would be destabilizing and would encourage Chinese aggression to ensue,” wrote the senators. “Additionally, I am concerned that Taiwan’s military weakness and the inability to mount a credible air force would place an undue burden on forward-deployed U.S. forces in North East Asia.”
This issue regarding the sale of fighter planes by the U.S to Taiwan has long been a center of conflict between Beijing and Washington D.C. In 2012, Obama’s Administration had reversed their long-standing disapproval to equipping the small nation of Taiwan with American jet fighters and warplanes, saying that the current fleet of Taiwan’s F-16s will not be able to stand against any potential attacks made by China.
The previous policy of the White House was in the stance that the U.S needed to provide the fighters with incremental upgrades only in order to keep China’s attacks at bay.
Taiwan is considered an ally of the Washington D.C, but they have been following an ambiguous policy which states that Taiwan is a considered a part of “One China”. Beijing, on the other hand, claims that they have the authority over Taiwan. The U.S provides ammunition to Taipei under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.