Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry has insisted that Washington’s sale of F-16V fighter jets will come though, after a report by Time magazine that the administration of US President Donald Trump has put the deal on hold so as not to derail trade negotiations with China.
The ministry said it had maintained close communications with the US State Department and with F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin since a letter of request to purchase the jets was submitted to Washington.
Citing three anonymous US officials, Time reported on Friday that Trump had put the sale on hold until a trade deal with China can be sealed. The US Congress must also endorse any arms sales to Taiwan, though the administration is yet to submit such a request to lawmakers, according to the magazine.
Moreover, the State Department, which has reportedly opposed the arms sale, has also called for an inter-agency meeting to determine whether the US should sell M1 Abrams tanks to Taiwan.
The White House’s initial decision to allow Taiwan to buy more than 60 F-16Vs, first reported in late February, was widely interpreted as a show of support for Taiwan, against the backdrop of China flexing its muscles.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry noted that since Trump’s inauguration, the US had approved two rounds of arms sales. The upcoming deal would serve as a further affirmation of the Taiwan Relations Act, which authorizes the US to provide Taiwan with defensive arms.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen thanked pilots with the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Taiwanese air force, which launched an emergency interception mission aboard five F-16s on March 31 to block Chinese J-11 fighters and H-6K bombers after they flew over the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
It has been reported that the standoff between Taiwan’s F-16s and China’s J-11s on the edge of Taiwan’s airspace lasted for more than 10 minutes.
Tsai vowed that the military would “forcefully ” fend off any People’s Liberation Army aircraft or vessel that crosses the median line.