US President Donald Trump has said he has approved the proposed deal to sell 66 Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan – a move set to significantly boost the self-ruled island’s defences against mainland China.
Taiwan’s defence ministry welcomed Trump’s announcement, saying that it would help to maintain security in the Taiwan Strait and Asia-Pacific region, and that it would continue its close contact with US departments.
Speaking to reporters in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump said that the US$8 billion deal would need to be ratified by the US Senate but that he had approved it.
“It’s US$8 billion. It’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of jobs. And we know they’re going to use these F-16s responsibly,” he said.
If the deal is approved by Congress, it will be the first time since 1992 that the United States has sold F-16s to Taiwan. Previous requests were rejected by the Barack Obama administration, which instead offered to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of about 140 F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft.
Beijing strongly opposes arms deals with Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, but the US is obliged to help defend the self-governing island under the terms of its Taiwan Relations Act, effective since 1979.
Global Times, a nationalist paper affiliated with Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, said that the sales would prompt a strong response from the mainland, including further military drills and economic measures against Taiwan.
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