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No decision yet on Taiwan F-16 sale, DoD says

A senior US Department of Defense official suggested on 24 August that the proposed sale of 66 Lockheed Martin F-16C/Ds to Taiwan has not been ruled out, despite recent news reports to the contrary.

Asked to comment on the news reports about the F-16 deal, Michael Shiffler, deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, stopped short of giving a direct answer.

"I will simply offer that there have been no decisions that have been made on arms sales to Taiwan," Shiffler said. "We work this question on a daily basis."

Shiffler added that the US government continues to support a policy of providing Taiwan with the "self-defence capabilities that it requires".

The Obama administration plans to make a final decision by 1 October on whether to export new F-16s to Taiwan, or simply upgrade the country's existing F-16A/B fleet.

 Taiwan F-16
© Peter Foster
Will the US export new F-16s to Taiwan, or simply upgrade the country's existing F-16A/B fleet?

The day before Shiffler's remarks, Senator John Cornyn told reporters in Texas that he would try to go around the Obama administration's internal debate and insert the F-16s for Taiwan in a defence authorisation bill.

The deal's approval would mean extending the F-16 production line by up to two years, preserving up to 2,300 jobs, he said.

But such a sale of new weapon systems to Taiwan is likely to prompt a fierce reaction from China, which regards the island as a breakaway province.

For the past decade, China has committed a "robust investment" to improve its military capabilities, according to the DoD's annual report to Congress on Chinese military and security developments, which was released on 24 October.

The report acknowledged the appearance since late December of the Chengdu Aircraft J-20 stealth fighter prototype, and described it as a platform for conducting long-range strikes into complex air defences.

The report also described other new developments for the first time, such as the Chinese air force's plans to develop the H-6K long-range bomber and integrate the CJ-10A stand-off cruise missile.

The report also warned that the Chinese air force has global ambitions, but remains focused for the next decade at least on building up a "credible military threat" to US and Taiwanese forces.

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