A congressional panel on Thursday urged the United States to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, the latest appeal for the weaponry the island says it needs to counter a rising China.
With no dissents, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for a measure saying President Barack Obama “should take immediate steps to sell Taiwan all the F-16 fighter jets that are needed by Taiwan,” as well as submarines.
The text quotes a report last year from the US Defense Department stating that China was gaining in its military edge over Taiwan and developing the capability to “settle the dispute on Beijing’s terms.”
The bill has little immediate effect as it was included as an amendment to a spending bill, one step in a long process in both houses of Congress to approve funding for the fiscal year that begins in October.
But the vote was the latest sign of restlessness in Congress over the weapons. In May, nearly half of the US Senate across party lines sent a joint letter urging the administration to approve the jet sales to Taiwan.
The United States last year approved $6.4 billion in weapons for Taiwan, including Patriot missiles and Black Hawk helicopters. But the administration did not include the F-16s and has said little since on the issue.
Even without the jets, China lodged a strong protest and temporarily cut off military exchanges with the United States.
In 1979, the United States switched its recognition to Beijing from Taiwan, where China’s nationalists had fled 30 years earlier after being defeated in the mainland’s civil war. But Congress, a stronghold of support for Taiwan, mandated that the United States provide the island with means for self-defense.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly said that the island needs F-16s to upgrade its aging fleet, despite his drive to improve ties with the mainland since taking office in 2008.