An F-16 fighter jet takes off from an air base in Taiwan.  Upgrading the island's existing F-16 fleet to the latest V configuration is a key part of the United States' arms sales and transfer of defense technologies.  Photo: AFP
An F-16 fighter jet takes off from an air base in Taiwan. Photo: AFP

Taiwan has sent a delegation to the US to attend an annual defense cooperation forum between the two militaries and the official leading the delegation, Deputy Defense Minister Chang Guan-chung, has promised that he will not return empty-handed.

Chang is to lobby US officials for more transfers of sensitive technologies at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, which opened on Sunday in Annapolis, Maryland.

The conference, which was to end on Tuesday, is the 17th installment in a series of annual exchanges to address the future of US cooperation with the Taiwanese military, as well as the procurement process and national defense and security needs.

The discussions this year are centered on Taiwan’s role in the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy, how it can increase regional engagement on defense and security issues, and how it can continue to develop its capabilities to meet existing and future defense needs, the US-Taiwan Business Council said.

The Taiwanese military has devised plans to change drastically the way technology and trade secrets are protected, an issue concerning slack intellectual-property protection that has long discouraged US officials and contractors from exporting the technologies crucial to Taiwan’s armament plans, according to Taiwanese papers.

The Defense Ministry has pledged to prioritize acquisitions and reforms to allay US misgivings about the transfer of sensitive technologies, after US arms contractors advised the ministry to introduce a comprehensive mechanism to prevent the theft or unauthorized transfer of technology and trade secrets.

In a related development, Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency reported that the US was expected to approve another round of arms sales by the end of the year, following a US$330 million deal announced in September, citing the head of the US-Taiwan Business Council, Rupert Hammond-Chambers.

“It’s reasonable to argue that there will be another congressional notification before the end of this year,” Hammond-Chambers said at a news conference before the opening of the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, but he declined to speculate on what arms the US would make available, saying only that the value of the package would be significant.

On September 24, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced a proposed arms sale that included standard spare parts and other maintenance supplies for Taiwan’s F-16s, C-130s, F-5s and other aircraft, the second of its kind since US President Donald Trump took office.

A US$1.4 billion landmark deal was inked in June 2017.

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