Taiwan Air Force F-16 fighter jet

U.S. will upgrade Taiwan F-16 jets - business council

The government will tell Congress it plans to upgrade Taiwan’s existing F-16 fighter jet fleet, according to the U.S.-Taiwan Business council.

Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers, whose group lobbied for the sale of more advanced F-16 planes, said notification of the upgrade was "imminent”, which was confirmed by congressional sources.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are a major sore spot with China, which regards the self-ruled island as its own.

"It's a bad decision. It undermines Taiwan's ability to modernize its fighter fleet," said Hammond-Chambers.

Taiwan had requested to buy 66 late-model F-16 fighter planes built by Lockheed Martin, as it wants the newer F-16s to bolster its early-model F-16 A/Bs sold by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

Since 2006, the United States has balked at providing the F-16 C/D models, potentially valued at more than $8 billion, apparently for fear of angering Beijing.

This week’s decision "appeases China on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and ignores Congress's view on this matter," said Hammond-Chambers.

The United States is committed under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to supply Taiwan with the weapons it needs to maintain a "sufficient self-defence capability."

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said the government does not comment on foreign military sales "unless formal congressional notification has taken place."

He added: "Meeting Taiwan's defines needs is a deep and enduring commitment of the United States and this administration is committed to doing so under the terms of the TRA."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry repeated its opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan earlier this week.

Washington should "avoid any unnecessary disturbance and damage to bilateral ties," the ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Last week, an official newspaper warned that "madmen" on Capitol Hill pushing the F-16 sale were playing with fire and could pay a "disastrous price" if the Obama administration went ahead with any sale.

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