US to supply Taiwan radar equipment for air defense system and fighter jets

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US to supply Taiwan air force radar equipment

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The United States said it will supply radar equipment to Taiwan’s air force, an approval of a relatively marginal item less likely to anger China than the F-16 fighter jets the island’s president urged Washington to provide last week.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday that the U.S. sale includes “defense services, technical data, and defense articles” for Taiwan’s air defense system, and radar equipment for the island’s Indigenous Defense Fighter jets.

Crowley did not put a monetary figure on the deal or identify the American companies involved.

The U.S. is obligated by law to provide Taiwan defensive weapons.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry did not comment immediately on the transaction, but the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, a private advocacy group based in suburban Washington, called it “a small move.”

For years the island has been pressing the U.S. to sell it 66 F-16 C/D fighter jets to help counteract a long-standing Chinese military buildup, much of which has been aimed at providing Beijing the wherewithal to invade across the 100-mile- (160-kilometer-) wide Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949 and the mainland still claims the island as part of its territory. It has threatened to attack if democratic Taiwan moves to make its de facto independence permanent.

Beijing objects strongly to any U.S. military sales to the island on the grounds that they constitute interference in its internal affairs. Earlier this year it suspended defense exchanges with Washington after the U.S. announced it would make available to Taiwan a $6.4 billion weapons package.

Some Taiwanese defense officials fear that the threat of additional Chinese pressure has already convinced Washington to take the F-16 C/D sale off the table.

However, they continue to hope that the Obama administration might agree to a substantial upgrade of the F-16 A/B fighters currently in the island’s inventory as a kind of consolation prize.

In contrast to F-16s, the Indigenous Defense Fighter at the center of the new radar deal is widely regarded as a relatively unsophisticated aircraft, incapable of holding its ground against the fourth generation fighters now in the possession of the Chinese air force.

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