WASHINGTON — Two US senators introduced legislation on Monday demanding President Barack Obama sell Taiwan no fewer than 66 advanced F-16 fighter jets despite Beijing’s fierce objections.
“This sale is a win-win, in strengthening the national security of our friend Taiwan as well as our own, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the US,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the Taiwan Relations Act, a 1979 law that requires Washington to ensure Taiwan can defend itself, “compelled” the sale and warned failure to go through with the deal could cost US jobs.
“Delaying the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan could result in the closure of the F-16 production line, which would cost New Jersey 750 manufacturing jobs,” said Menendez.
The legislation, which does not yet have a House counterpart, states that “the President shall carry out the sale of no fewer than 66 F-16C/D multirole fighter aircraft to Taiwan.”
But while the US Constitution gives congress power over “commerce with foreign nations,” the measure would be an unprecedented effort to force a military sale not endorsed by the president.
Taiwan applied to the US in 2007 to buy the 66 F-16C/Ds, improved versions of the F-16A/Bs that the island’s air force now uses, claiming that the new jets were needed to counter China’s growing military clout.
US magazine Defense News reported recently that Washington has told Taiwan it will not sell the jets, but both US and Taiwan officials have insisted no final decision has been made.
Beijing considers Taiwan a part of its territory awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Washington recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei but remains a leading arms supplier to the island.
China, whose state media has denounced the possible fighter jet sale, reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a $6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan.
But “saying no here would mean granting Communist China substantial sway over American foreign policy, putting us on a very slippery slope,” warned Cornyn.
The 2010 package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s existing F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.