- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A massive weapons sale to Taiwan including 66 American-made F-16 fighter jets has been finalized by U.S. officials, marking the biggest weapons sale to Taiwan in modern history.

The Trump administration one year ago gave the green light to an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan that started the sale that is all but certain to anger China amid a bitter trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

Defense Department officials publicized the deal Friday in an updated contacts section. According to the post, the U.S. Air Force had awarded the production contract to weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin to produce 90 of the supersonic multirole fighter aircraft.

Twenty-four of the planes are expected to go to Morocco, CNN reported, as the final deliveries will take place in 2026.

The deal comes amid mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory. The move could also complicate U.S.-Chinese ties on issues such as Hong Kong and North Korea.

Taiwan already uses the Lockheed Martin-made F-16 heavily in its air force. The F-16V aircraft that was purchased is the most advanced of its kind, marking an upgrade from the F-16A/B models the military currently owns.

When the sale was approved by U.S. officials last year, the bipartisan leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee released a joint statement praising the sale, and said it “sends a strong message about the U.S. commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific.”

“As [China] steps up its military aggression in the region, we need to do all we can to support our friends around the world. … It will help deter China as they threaten our strategic partner Taiwan and its democratic system of government,” wrote panel Chairman Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Although the U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation, Washington maintains strong unofficial ties with the island and is a crucial supplier of weapons and planes for the island’s defense.

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