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Monday, July 24, 2006

China Warns U.S. Not to Sell Fighters To Taiwan

Mon, 24 Jul 2006, 00:33

Beijing has warned Washington not to proceed with a reported deal to sell fighters to Taiwan, indicating it would impact on regional security and harm Sino-U.S. relations, state media said on July 21.

”The Chinese side has taken note of the report and lodged serious representations to the United States,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

The China Times reported on July 17 that a Taiwanese delegation had proposed the procurement of 66 advanced fighter planes during an annual military meeting with Washington early this month.

If the report is confirmed, it would be the biggest arms deal Washington has offered Taiwan since 2001 when U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to provide the island with eight diesel-powered submarines, 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft and an improved version of Patriot missiles, the paper said.

Taiwan’s defense ministry has declined comment on the report.
The new fleet of F-16C/D fighters aim to reinforce the air force’s combat capability before it can acquire so-called “third generation” fighters from the United States, the paper said.

The United States in 1992 agreed to sell Taiwan 150 less sophisticated F-16A/Bs, but refused to provide F-16C/Ds which have a longer range and powerful ground attack capability.

In addition to 146 F-16A/B fighters, the air force has 128 locally produced Indigenous Defense Fighters and 56 French-made Mirage 2000-5s, along with 60 or so aging F-5 Tigers.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has pledged gradually to increase military spending to around three percent of gross domestic product, up from the current 2.5 percent.

China has repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan should it move towards formal independence, prompting the island to seek more advanced weaponry.

China announced in March its military budget for this year would rise 14.7 percent to $35 billion, the latest in a series of double-digit annual increases dating back to the early 1990s.

A Pentagon report last year estimated that China’s defense spending was two to three times the publicly announced figure and that the cross-strait military balance was tipping in Beijing’s favor.

Bush met briefly in Washington on July 20 with China’s top military officer and highlighted Sino-U.S. cooperation on issues like North Korea and military matters, the White House said.

General Guo Boxiong was visiting the United States as part of a US-Chinese effort to expand cooperation between their militaries.
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