The Trump administration has approved the sale of new Lockheed Martin F-16Vs to Taiwan, a long considered decision that will likely worsen tensions with China, which wants to bring the island nation back under its control.

Several media outlets pegged the sale at $8 billion for 66 jets, citing anonymous sources. The deal was confirmed by a joint statement from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, a Democrat, and ranking member Michael McCaul, a Republican.

“The sale of F-16s to Taiwan sends a strong message about the US commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement reads. “As leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are pleased the administration is moving forward with this sale and have every confidence that it will be supported on a bipartisan and bicameral basis.”

Dutch F-16 - Anno Gravemaker

Dutch F-16

Anno Gravemaker

The deal has not been publicly been disclosed, but reportedly the US Congress was been notified of the sale after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved it. The joint statement by the top ranking Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is indicative of widespread, bipartisan support for the arms transfer.

“As the (People’s Republic of China) steps up its military aggression in the region, we need to do all we can to support our friends around the world,” Engel and McCaul say in their letter. “Following our meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in New York last month, we know this sale will underscore our deep and enduring partnership with Taiwan. Further, it will help deter China as they threaten our strategic partner Taiwan and its democratic system of government.”

Approval of the sale of F-16s to Taiwan does not mean the deal is finalised. The final configuration of the aircraft need to be decided and Taipei needs to sign off on it.