The latest US arms sales package for Taiwan, which includes sophisticated radar gear for F-16 fighter jets, will be valued at up to US$5.85 billion, about 40 per cent higher than earlier estimates, the top official of America's de facto diplomatic mission to the island said yesterday.
Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, said after attending an annual US-Taiwan defence industry conference in Richmond, Virginia, that the weapons in this year's package will not fall below the levels of previous years, even though the latest deal excludes advanced F-16 C/D jets, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.
The Obama administration is set to notify Congress about the latest arms-sale decision today.
Earlier reports had suggested that the package would reach US$4.2 billion. But later reports said the total value would exceed the earlier projection because other equipment, such as the active electronically scanned array radar system, would be included in the package.
Burghardt said although the Obama administration had approved only upgrades to Taiwan's F-16 A/B jets, that did not mean that the US would not sell it the advanced F-16 C/D jets in the future.
A US administration official said that the upgraded F-16 A/B jets will essentially be the same as providing F-16 C/D jets but at a much cheaper price.
'You're getting 145 planes upgraded to virtually the same [specifications] as the Cs and Ds for US$5.8 billion', versus what would have been a US$8.3 billion tab for 66 new planes, the official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said Beijing would definitely be angered by the deal.
'Beijing will be frustrated anyway, especially now that the value of the package is higher than the earlier estimation,' he said.
Burghardt said that, after finalising the latest deal, the US will have sold arms worth US$12 billion to Taiwan over three years, or 80 per cent of the total value of arms sold to the island during the George W. Bush administration.
US officials said weapons sales to Taiwan since 2009 will be greater than in the previous four years, and they will be double the sales that occurred between 2004 and 2008.
Critics on the mainland have called for tough actions against the US over its arms sales to Taiwan and said the issue is a sign that the US wants to contain the rise of China.
'The latest deal is part of US efforts to strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific (region), and in the South China Sea,' Ni said.
Tao Wenzhao , a senior research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' American Research Institute, said the new estimate would not make Beijing any angrier than it already was, as the upgrade of the F-16 A/B to the C/D standard was merely rhetoric to address Taiwanese concerns.