The Obama administration formally notified Congress and
announced details of its decision to sell Taiwan a new $5.8 billion package of
arms, which includes an upgrade package to Taiwan's existing fighter jets --
but not the new F-16 jets it had requested.
"The recipient is one of the major powers in Asia and the
Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and
stability in that region," stated the notification on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, where
foreign military sales are posted. "It is in the U.S. national interest to
assist the recipient in developing and maintaining a strong and ready
self-defense capability, which will contribute to an acceptable military
balance in the area."
The bulk of the arms package is made up of $5.3 billion
worth of retrofits for Taiwan's 145 F-16 A/B jet fighters.
"The proposed retrofit improves both the capabilities and
the reliability of the recipient's fleet of F-16A/B aircraft. The improved
capability, survivability, and reliability of newly retrofitted F-16A/B
aircraft will greatly enhance the recipient's ability to defend its borders,"
the notification said. "This proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and
security interests by supporting the recipient's continuing efforts to
modernize its armed forces and enhance its defensive capability. The proposed
sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining
political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region."
The remaining $500 million in the package is for a pilot
training program for Taiwanese pilots to learn how to fly F-16s at Luke Air Force
Base in Arizona.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement
criticizing the administration for not offering Taiwan the 66 new F-16 C/D
fighter jets they had requested.
"President Obama's refusal to sell Taiwan new military jets
is yet another example of his weak leadership in foreign policy," Romney's
statement said. "President Obama has ignored Taiwan's request and caved into
the unreasonable demands of China at the cost of well-paying American jobs.
This decision raises serious questions about his commitment to our closest
partners and to the policies that have sustained American leadership abroad."
The administration had preemptively given its defense of the
decision to reporters on Monday, via a senior administration official speaking
on background basis to reporters in New York.
"Assuming the decision is to upgrade F-16 A/B, they
will provide essentially the same quality as new F-16 C/D aircraft at a far
cheaper price. And Taiwan would stand to get 145 A/Bs versus only 66 C/Ds. And
we're obviously prepared to consider further sales in the future," the
official said, not wanting to confirm the details before official congressional
Sen. John Cornyn
(R-TX) sponsored a bill with Sen. Robert
Menendez (R-NJ) to compel the administration to sell Taiwan new planes, and
he is trying to add that bill as an amendment to the Trade Adjustment
Assistance bill that is on the Senate floor now.
"Taiwan must have
the tools to defend itself against potential Chinese aggression, and this
decision not to sell Taiwan new F-16C/Ds represents a failure by the administration
to live up to its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act," said Cornyn.
The F-16 is produced
by Lockheed Martin in Cornyn's home state of Texas.
ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images