US lawmakers push White House to strengthen ties with Taiwan
Associated Press in Washington
US lawmakers have pushed the Obama administration to strengthen relations with Taiwan and voiced concern that Pentagon budget cuts will affect planned upgrades to the island's fleet of F-16s.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee accused the administration of prioritising relations with Beijing over those with Taiwan, particularly when it comes to defence sales.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kin Moy responded: "I don't think that our Taiwan policy is founded on the principle of 'let's not make [mainland] China mad'." He said the administration had approved US$12 billion in defence sales to Taiwan since 2009.
Congressman Eliot Engel said he was very concerned about plans to end funding next year for a US Air Force programme to upgrade F-16s. He said it could impact Taiwan's ability to proceed with improvements to its fleet of about 150 F-16s at "reasonable cost". Moy told lawmakers the upgrades of Taiwan's jets the US authorised in 2011 would not be affected significantly.
The committee held its hearing to mark the upcoming 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. It guides US policy towards the democratically governed island. Under the act, the US is required to provide Taiwan with the weapons it needs for its defence.
The committee's chairman, Ed Royce, urged the administration to invite Taiwan to join a trans-Pacific trade pact the US is negotiating with 11 other nations, including Japan.
He said it would be in America's strategic interest and would make Taiwan less reliant on trade with the mainland. Moy said the US welcomed Taiwan's interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but said it was best to move towards concluding the negotiations with the current members before adding more.
US lawmakers pressed the Obama administration to authorise sales of new, more capable F-16s to Taiwan.