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Amid rising tensions, US signs deal to sell 66 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan  

Washington/Taipei: Give the rising threat from China, the US has signed a deal with Taiwan to sell 66 advanced F-16 Viper fighter jets. Last year, US President Donald Trump had approved Taipei’s proposal for the supply of advanced fighter jets. On the sidelines of the Health Secretary’s recent visit to Taiwan, the US appears to have dealt another blow to China with the deal. Chinese media and analysts have reacted severely to the announcement and have called the deal another attempt at provocation.  

A few months ago, senior US military officials had warned that the Chinese Communist Party might try to take control of areas in the South China Sea given the widespread Coronavirus crisis. Before that as also after this time, China has visibly ramped up its activities against Taiwan. In a meeting held at the end of May, a senior CCP member as also military official had insisted the time was opportune for launching an attack on Taiwan. In the last few weeks, Chinese activities against Taiwan have begun to intensify increasingly.  

Two days ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had organised extensive military drills in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese Spokesperson stated that the PLA had held the exercise to protect its sovereignty and as a measure of preparedness against the repeated provocations it was receiving. The exercise was the fourth massive one Chinese PLA had organised in the past month near Taiwan’s boundaries. Moreover, the Chinese media had claimed the drills were a simulation for launching a direct attack on Taiwan. Even Taiwanese lawmakers and officials have acknowledged the statement expressing concerns over a possible attack by China.  

F-16, Taiwan, USThe US has ramped up its activities to respond to the aggressive Chinese movements against Taiwan, and the F-16 deal only confirms it.  Previously, in 1992, the then President of United States, George W Bush had agreed to provide Taiwan with a whopping 150 F-16 fighters. The present deal is believed to be the most significant one after that and worth approximately eight to ten billion dollars. Furthermore, the US has also agreed on an upgrade to the existing fighters operational in the Taiwanese air force.   

In the past few months, the US began to supply Taiwan with defence equipment on a large scale. These include the sale of the Harpoon missile, the Patriot missile system as also torpedoes along with the fighter jets. At the same time, the US has stepped up military deployments and presence of aircraft carriers, destroyers, bombers, drones and surveillance aircraft in the region. What’s more, a US lawmaker has introduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, which approves of US military action in a possible attack on Taiwan. A few days ago, the US Secretary of Health Alex Azar had arrived in Taiwan for a visit. Azar is the highest-level US official and lawmaker to visit Taiwan after the country severed diplomatic ties with the island in 1979.   

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