US lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has introduced legislation that would reinforce Washington’s ties with Taiwan, notably by supporting the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the island.
The draft follows a bill put forward by two US senators earlier this week, which called on President Barack Obama to sell Taiwan no fewer than 66 of the advanced jets despite Beijing’s fierce objections.
“China must not be allowed to dictate US policy in the Pacific,” Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
“The Taiwan Relations Act continues to be the bedrock of US policy in the region and this bill will help to reinforce it, and strengthen the US-Taiwan alliance.”
Ros-Lehtinen’s bill backs the sale of the latest F-16 fighter jets to Taipei as well as other weapons systems in accordance with a 1979 law under which Washington is required to provide for the island’s defense.
Washington recognizes only China but remains a leading arms supplier to the island. Beijing has repeatedly bristled over the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan, which it sees as part of its territory awaiting reunification.
Other arms that would be authorized for sale under the new legislation are surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft defense systems, submarines and even drones.
Ros-Lehtinen’s bill “encourages the negotiation of a trade and investment framework agreement and the eventual negotiation of a free trade agreement” with Taipei.”
It also proposes ministerial-level meetings between the two sides, noting that no US cabinet member has gone to the self-ruled island since July 2000.
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.
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.
Two Vietnam War-era jets crashed in Taiwan on Tuesday, sparking renewed calls for the US to help Taipei update its fleet.