U.S. refuses Taiwan request for new fighter jets - report

Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:06am GMT

By Faith Hung

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The United States has refused Taiwan's request for 66 new F-16C/D fighter jets that China warned Washington would risk inflaming tensions between the two big powers, Defense News reported, citing a Taiwan defence official.

Taiwan has repeatedly asked Washington to agree to sell the advanced F-16 fighter jets, citing the need to counter the growing military strength of China, which deems the island an breakaway province that must eventually accept reunification, by force if necessary.

Neither Washington nor Taipei has made any formal announcement about the latest call for the fighters, but Defesce News (www.defensenews.com) said on Sunday that Taiwan had been told there would be no sale, citing Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense.

"We are so disappointed in the United States," the report quoted an unnamed Taiwan defence official as saying.

"A U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) delegation arrived here last week to deliver the news and offer instead a retrofit package for (Taiwan's) older F-16A/Bs," the journal reported from Taipei.

Any fresh U.S. arms support to Taiwan is likely to raise hackles in Beijing, but the advanced fighter jets have been an especially touchy point for China, which this week will host U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The bitter debate in the U.S. Congress over spending and the downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating by Standard & Poor's drew blunt criticism from China's state media, including a commentary that said the U.S. debt woes reflected its military overreach abroad.

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it could not comment on the report, as it had not heard from the United States.   Continued...

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