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US approve $8bn deal to sell 66 F-16 jets to Taiwan

WASHINGTON:  The United States has approved the sae of 66 F-16 fighters jets to Taiwan.

The US move is set to anger China.

The US State Department has approved the sale of F-16 fighters to Taiwan.

Taiwan will get the latest version of the fighter plane, the F-16C/D Block 70, in the $8bn deal, the State Department announced on Tuesday.

Before the announcement, US President Donald Trump declared that “somebody had to take China on”.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that Trump had green-lighted the proposed sale after Congress was notified last week.

The F-16s “are deeply consistent with the arrangements, the historical relationship” between the US and China, Pompeo said.

“Our actions are consistent with past US policy. We are simply following through on the commitments we’ve made to all of the parties.”

The sale also includes 75 General Electric Co engines, as well as other systems.

US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, a Republican, welcomed the sale, saying “these fighters are critical to improving Taiwan’s ability to defend its sovereign airspace, which is under increasing pressure from the People’s Republic of China”.

Taiwan’s plan to upgrade its air defences comes amid increasing Chinese military incursions into its airspace.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a part of China awaiting reunification, but the island is self-ruled and is a close ally of the US.

In a statement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees US foreign military sales, said Taiwan’s purchase of the F-16s “will not alter the basic military balance in the region”.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the recipient’s capability to provide for the defense of its airspace, regional security, and interoperability with the United States.”

On Tuesday, the state-owned publication China Daily said the sale sends an “erroneous signal” to Beijing.

A senior foreign ministry official was also quoted as saying that “nobody should underestimate” the will of China “to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said US arms sales to Taiwan “severely violate” agreements between Washington and Beijing and “constitute severe interference in China’s internal affairs”.

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