Thursday, 15 March 2018

Taiwan maintains goal of procuring U.S. F-35 jets: new defense chief

Taipei, March 15 (CNA) New Defense Minster Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) said Thursday that Taiwan is still interested in buying F-35 fighters from the United States because that model matches the requirements of the Air Force.

The short takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the F-35B would definitely meet the needs of Taiwan's Air Force, Yen told lawmakers in his first interpellation session in the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense committee since assuming his new post.

He said, however, that his ministry had not yet made any official requests to the U.S. to procure the aircraft and he could not disclose how many it was hoping to purchase.

Yen, a former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general who was sworn in as Taiwan's new defense minister on Feb. 26, was reiterating a plan that has been floated since late 2011, when the government at that time said Taiwan was hoping to buy advanced F-35 fifth-generation multirole fighter jets from the U.S.

In a press briefing Thursday, Remus Chen (陳立國), head of the Foreign Ministry's Department of North American Affairs, said Taiwan has made clear its intention to seek weaponry from the U.S. to meet its air defense needs.

"Hopefully those needs can be fulfilled soon," he said.

Asked to comment, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Sonia Urbom told CNA in an email that the U.S. remains fully committed to fulfilling its responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) but cannot comment on pending or potential arms sales.

"In accordance with the TRA, we will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," Urbom said. "We continue to review Taiwan's defensive needs on an ongoing basis and will consult with Congress as required."

In a Reuters interview in May 2017, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said her administration was not dismissing the possibility of obtaining F-35 fighters.

"We don't rule out any items that would be meaningful to our defense and our defense strategy, and the F-35 is one such item," Tsai said. 

(By Joseph Yeh)

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