|Will Taiwan finally get the F-16C/Ds?|
Last week’s surprise announcement by US President Barack Obama’s administration that it would give “serious consideration” to the possibility of selling F-16C/D combat aircraft to Taiwan was cause for cautious optimism. However, while it may be welcome in defense circles, the timing could give President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a major headache as his inauguration day approaches.
Two administrations — that of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Ma’s — have since 2006 made repeated, yet unsuccessful, attempts to acquire 66 of the much-needed F-16C/Ds to bring back some balance in air power in the Taiwan Strait.
Through a bureaucratic sleight of hand, the White House, weary of complicating its relationship with Beijing, managed to avoid having to make a decision by pretending that Taipei had yet to submit a Letter of Request (LoR) for the aircraft. The reality is that officials in the administrations of both former US president George W. Bush and Obama made it impossible for Taiwan to submit an LoR.
Now the context appears to have changed, and this puts Ma in a quandary, as political considerations at the top could add some friction.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.