TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's bid to buy F-16 fighter jets from the United States has become "hopeless," a top Taiwanese official was quoted as saying in an Aug. 20 report. This follows up a report by Defense News last week that Washington told Taiwan it will not sell the jets.
AN ARMED U.S.-BUILT F-16 fighter takes off during a drill in April. (Sam Yeh / Agence France-Presse)
The comments by parliamentary speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who said the U.S. had changed its mind about selling the jets, mark the first time an official has stated publicly that the long-awaited deal is expected to fall through.
At that time, both U.S. and Taiwanese officials insisted no decision had been made.
It is now "all but hopeless" for Taipei to get the jets, although Washington will still help it upgrade the F-16A/Bs and provide the island other defensive weapons, Wang said in an Aug. 19 speech, according to the report in the Taipei-based China times newspaper.
However, the Taiwanese defense ministry said it was still seeking to acquire the new jets.
"We will continue to push for our request to buy the F-16C/Ds and we will not give up on that," ministry spokesman David Lo said.
Taiwan applied to the U.S. in 2007 to buy the 66 F-16C/Ds, improved versions of the F-16A/Bs that the island's air force now uses, claiming that the new jets were needed to counter a rising China.
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.