F-16 Sales to Taiwan Generates Rare Show of Senate Unity

May 31, 2011

It seems as if the only thing a majority in the U.S. Senate can agree on is that they do not like any of the proposed budget plans. That is, until the subject of the sale of F-16s to Taiwan came up.

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, and good sense, the co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Inhofe (R-Okla) published a letter signed by forty-three of their colleagues calling on the Obama Administration to approve Taiwan’s request to buy 66 F-16 C/D fighter jets. Among the senators who signed the letter, in addition to Menendez, were Democrats Joe Lieberman, Tim Johnson, Jay Rockefeller, Ron Wyden and Sherrod Brown. Republicans Jon Kyl, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Scott Brown joined Inhofe in signing the letter.

The “Gang of 45” is not looking to provoke a confrontation with the People’s Republic of China. Rather, they are focused on the need to maintain stability and military parity in East Asia. China is continuing a massive military buildup involving the addition of dozens of ballistic missiles and hundreds of modern jet fighters to its arsenal across the straits from Taiwan. The Senators realize that if the sale of F-16 is not concluded soon, the U.S. might have no viable options for preventing the situation across the straits from becoming unstable. Thus, the 45 Senators warned the administration that,

« We are deeply concerned that further delay of the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan could result in closure of the F-16 production line, and urge you to expedite this export process before the line closes. Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the U.S. »

The Obama Administration has refused to act on Taiwan’s request out of a fear of angering China, even though it is Beijing that is destabilizing the balance of power in the region. Failure to respond to the legitimate security needs of a long-time friend and fellow democracy in the pursuit of narrow national interest is a mistake. As the President made clear in his recent speech to the Muslim world, the defense and nurturance of democratic governments around the world is in our interest and must be a core value that guides this nation’s policy decisions. What is right for the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa is also right for Taiwan.

Providing additional F-16s for Taiwan and upgrading that country’s existing fleet will only restore the military balance that has been present in the region for more than sixty years. It will also send a signal to the leaders in Beijing that the security policy of the United States will not be guided only by narrow market interests.

Source: Lexington Institute

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