- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama is expected to deny the sale to Taiwan of 66 advanced F-16 C/D model aircraft, despite requests from 181 House of Representatives members and 45 senators from both parties (“Obama agrees to sell arms to Taiwan,” Page 1, Friday).

The decision not to sell new F-16s would really be a setback for officials in Taipei and members of Congress who are concerned about Taiwan’s declining defenses. According to a Senate aide, since 2006 Taiwan has submitted three letters to the White House requesting new F-16 C/Ds - and none of these requests has been granted.

A crucial consideration in the refusal to sell the newer F-16 C/D is the Obama administration’s reluctance to further aggravate China. But if the United States is seeking to maintain the status quo with Taiwan, then it should approve the sale and allow Taiwan to at least keep up. There is, of course, a risk to such a sale, namely that it will encourage China to escalate its military buildup. But if China is worried about an escalation on Taiwan’s part, it should probably start by rethinking the 1,600 missiles it has pointed at Taiwan.

As China grows and its military strengthens unabated, it poses a range of challenges to the United States. It develops capabilities to defeat even more advanced U.S. tactical aircraft, such as the F-22, which may be sold to other U.S. allies in the region.

Furthermore, the aeronautics unit of Lockheed Martin Corp., which produces the F-16 multi-role fighter jet, recently announced that it plans to cut several thousand jobs to reduce costs in response to flattening U.S. defense spending. If this administration’s highest priority is to jump-start the sluggish economy, it should work aggressively to ensure American companies are top contenders when friendly nations are assessing their defense equipment needs. Therefore, the Obama administration should end its blockade of Taiwan’s request to purchase advanced F-16 C/D fighters.

KENT WANG

Past president, Taiwan Benevolent Association of America

Potomac Falls, Va.

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