Taiwan announces 48 F-16 fighter jets

Image copyright AFP Image caption Taiwan military says China wants to create a “Chinese dragon” in the Pacific, which would challenge America’s island rivals

Taiwan has announced it will buy 48 F-16V attack jets as it builds up its military to counter China’s threats.

It will come in two batches of 36 aircraft each, and help the government “decide its strategic military strategy and defence budget,” the defence ministry said.

The move comes as tensions with China remain high over Taipei’s stance on self-ruled Taiwan’s future.

Tensions have increased as China is determined to fully take control of the island, which it regards as a breakaway province.

‘New strategic’

In a statement released on Monday, the defence ministry said the deal would help the island keep pace with current threats and help it meet the “high demands of a new strategic military”.

“Our commitment to meet the high demands of a new strategic military requires us to make investments,” the statement said.

“That means we need to upgrade and upgrade equipment, from weapons to helicopters, as well as increase our base size and strategic mobility.”

Taiwan’s Defence Minister Lo Chih-chung said the purchase would improve Taiwan’s capability against China, according to the state-run Central News Agency.

He said the F-16V aircraft and Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16C/D jets met modern military requirements, and that the government would continue to buy new military equipment when the best options available to meet these requirements become available.

He added that the government would continue to discuss the long-term presence of the United States military in Taiwan with the US Congress and the State Department, and work on future acquisitions.

Military purchases

Previously, the defence ministry announced plans to buy 41 F-16C/D warplanes for about $8bn from US defence giant Lockheed Martin.

In September, the government said it was considering buying 60 F-16C/D fighters from the US, making the deal one of the largest military deals ever agreed between Washington and Taipei.

The US has kept more than 20,000 troops on Taiwan’s soil since the 1970s.

But in 2011, there were concerns about the future of US support to the island, when the Pentagon said it planned to review military sales to Taiwan.

This followed Taiwan’s new president Ma Ying-jeou’s insistence that the US remain neutral on the issue of Taiwan’s independence.

China says Taiwan has no right to declare independence, which would then leave it beholden to the ruling Communist Party, and that China will reunify the Taiwan with the mainland “one day”.

The US has urged both sides to work toward rapprochement, with US President Donald Trump phoning President Ma in February to discuss the South China Sea dispute.

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