Taiwan says determined to buy US fighters

Taiwan in 2007 applied to the US to buy 66 F-16 aircraft, saying they were needed to counter China.

Taipei: Taiwan said on Wednesday it was determined to acquire F-16s from the United States, rejecting allegations that the island had toned down its campaign for approval to buy the jet fighters.

Taiwan in 2007 applied to the United States to buy 66 F-16 aircraft, saying they were needed to counter a rising China, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.

"The Defence Ministry has constantly appealed to the US to sell the F-16 C/D jets through various channels. Our determination to maintain self-defence has never changed," it said in a statement.

The comments came after a Washington Times report quoted an unnamed US defence official as saying that Taiwan "has not lobbied very strongly" for the military hardware.

The official was also cited as saying that a recent incident of Chinese jets entering Taiwan`s airspace while chasing a US surveillance plane highlighted the "failures" of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s Beijing-friendly policies.

Taiwan`s defence authorities on Monday confirmed reports that in late June, two Chinese SU-27 fighter planes flew across the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, widely considered the boundary between its airspace and that of the mainland. But it downplayed the act as a "routine training mission”.

Taiwan`s United Daily News reported that the Chinese jets were attempting to drive away a US U2 reconnaissance aircraft flying along the Taiwan Strait to collect information on the Chinese mainland.

Beijing has demanded that Washington stop spy plane flights near the Chinese coast, saying they have "severely harmed" trust between the two countries, state-run media reported on Wednesday.

The United States gives diplomatic recognition to Beijing rather than Taipei but remains a leading arms supplier to the island.

China reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a USD 6.4 billion arms deal with the self-governing island.

That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan`s existing F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and refuses to abandon the possibility of taking Taiwan by force, even though the island has ruled itself since their split in 1949 after a civil war.

Bureau Report

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