Taiwan Renews Plea for US to Sell Fighter Jets

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday renewed calls to Washington to sell the island an upgraded version of the F16 fighter, following a Pentagon report warning of China's growing military might.

"We hope the US will consider selling Taiwan F16 C/D fighter jets to balance the military edge leaning towards China," Ma was quoted by state-funded Central News Agency as saying.

Ma told visiting US Congressman Roland Burris that Taiwan wished to acquire the jets not to prepare itself to start a war but to defend itself and ensure the island's safety, the report said.

His comments came after the Pentagon said in an annual report to Congress on Monday that China's military build-up against Taiwan has "continued unabated" despite improving political relations.

"The balance of... military forces continues to shift in the mainland's favour," the report said.

The report covered developments in 2009, before the United States approved a 6.4 billion-dollar arms package for the island in January.

Taiwan applied to the US government to buy 66 F-16 fighters in early 2007, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.

China opposes any arms sales to Taiwan, which it considers a part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and have been governed separately since.


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