The United States has told Taiwan it will not sell the island 66 long-sought F-16 fighter jets, a report said, but both US and Taiwanese officials insisted no decision had been made yet.
Taiwan applied to the United States in 2007 to buy the F-16C/Ds, improved versions of the F-16A/Bs that the island’s air force now uses, claiming that the new jets are needed to counter a rising China.
But a US Department of Defense delegation flew to Taipei last week to tell the local authorities that Washington will reject the bid, US magazine Defence News said in a Taipei-datelined article released Sunday.
“We are so disappointed in the United States,” it quoted an unnamed Taiwan defence ministry official as saying.
Instead, Washington will help Taipei upgrade its F-16A/Bs, according to the report.
Asked for comment on the report, Taiwan’s Deputy Defence Minister Andrew Yang said the island was “still striving for the deal.”
The American Institute in Taiwan — the US de facto embassy — declined to say whether a Pentagon delegation had visited last week, but also insisted the decision on the F-16s was still pending.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and refuses to abandon the possibility of taking Taiwan by force, even though the island has ruled itself since their split in 1949 after a civil war.
Washington recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei but remains a leading arms supplier to the island.
China reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a $6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan.
That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan’s existing F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.