Monday, February 22, 2010

More sales in the pipeline?

As recently reported, the United States sold arms worth $6.3 billion to Taiwan, the first since the early 1990s when Bush Sr. was in office. However, it seems that there could be another sale in the works if Congress has its way.

Defense News is reporting that Congress may be positioning itself to sell Taiwan additional weapons, specifically F-16 C/Ds that were left out of the recent sale. It's no secret that the bulk of the ROC air force is old and requires spare parts. While I wouldn't be surprised if the "defense industry analyst" was a Lockheed Martin employee (who makes the F-16 aircraft), they raise a fair point that the production line can only be maintained for so long. If it were to close without F-16 C/Ds sold to Taiwan, and if the U.S. wanted to replace ROC aircraft at some point in the future, then it would only be able to sell Taiwan the F-18 manufactured by Boeing.

While Beijing would protest the sale of fighter aircraft to Taiwan regardless of the model, the Chinese leadership would no doubt prefer F-16 C/Ds be sold as opposed to the more advanced F-18. The question is how many aircraft would be sold? Taiwan has requested 66 F-16 C/Ds since 2006, so if Congress gets it way, that amount could be sold. However, does the Obama administration want to take the risk of selling additional weapons to Taiwan at expense of Sino-U.S. relations? That I am not sure about. It could go either way, as Obama may want to stand up to China or use it as a chance to cultivate trust with the PRC. What do you think?

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