The Trump administration on Aug. 20 notified the Congress of its intention to sell 66 new Lockheed-Martin F-16V fighters to Taiwan. While the previous George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations refused to sell F-16V fighters to Taiwan, President Donald Trump is now returning to the longstanding bipartisan foreign policy of selling necessary weapons to Taiwan.
In doing so, the United States is helping to prevent a future “Hong Kong” and is also helping to curtail a costly “Cold War” with China.
Support for “rule of law” is not why China is gathering police and military forces for the possible violent suppression of Hong Kong’s protestors. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is deathly afraid that the protestors’ demands for real democracy could lead to the destruction of its political dictatorship and ambition for global dominance.
The CCP needs to crush Taiwan even more because it is today a full democracy adopted freely by a culturally Chinese “country,” which by simply existing undermines the legitimacy of the Party’s harsh dictatorship. Furthermore, the CCP and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) require Taiwan as a base for many of the ten aircraft carrier battle groups it could have by 2050, in addition to bases for nuclear missile submarines, marine amphibious groups, and airmobile armies.
These are needed to support CCP leader Xi Jinping’s ambitions for world leadership, currently being advanced by China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) initiative which offers countries around the world a potential $1 trillion in economic infrastructure building funds, but in reality is helping China to assemble political and military networks that will lead to military access and bases.
But as Taiwanese overwhelmingly reject China’s demands for “unification” that would destroy their freedom, Xi Jinping could decide to try to invade Taiwan any time starting in the early 2020s. The PLA has assembled over 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles to initiate an attack. Sufficient invasion forces can be transported by thousands of civilian ships and airlines exploiting ports and airfields captured by the amphibious army, marine, and airborne troops.
But success for any invasion will require control of the air over Taiwan. According to the Pentagon’s latest annual China Military Power report, the PLA Air Force now has over 600 4th generation fighters, comparable to or better than the 150 early models F-16s the George H.W. Bush administration sold to Taiwan in 1992. The PLA is now deploying 4+ generation fighters and is beginning to field its first 5th generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20.
The much more capable 4+ generation F-16V, which today can carry 10 medium-range AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, could carry up to 20 of a new half-size medium-range air-to-air missile being developed by Lockheed-Martin. With this new missile, Taiwan’s 66 F-16Vs potentially could be able to launch over 1,000 air-to-air missiles in a single mission.
In the future, the F-16V could be paired with the 5th generation Lockheed-Martin F-35, which has longer range radar, optical sensors and data links able to better guide multiple missiles fired by the F-16V.
Just as the Trump administration’s recent decision to sell Taiwan modern M1A2T Abrams main battle tanks enables it to better counter an invasion force, so too will the F-16V help improve Taiwan’s ability to contest control of its airspace. Together, these capabilities go a long way toward convincing the CCP leadership that an invasion could fail, meaning they can thus be deterred from trying.
While the United Stated diplomatically de-recognized Taiwan in 1979 in order to confer diplomatic recognition on the People’s Republic of China (PRC), that same year Republicans and Democrats passed overwhelmingly the 1979 Taiwan Relation Act (TRA), to govern relations with Taiwan and ensure continued sale of “defensive” arms. Selling Taiwan new F-16V fighters is consistent with this law.
Exercising its prerogative of oversight of the TRA, in 2018 with strong-bi-partisan support, Congress passed the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which President Trump signed into law in January this year.
This law states, “The President should conduct regular transfers of defensive articles to Taiwan that are tailored to meet the existing and likely future threats from the People’s Republic of China, including capabilities as appropriate, including mobile, survivable, and cost effective capabilities, into its military forces.”
This represents bi-partisan leadership which will go far to deter war on the Taiwan Strait, prevent China from imposing Hong Kong’s suffering on the people of Taiwan, and prevent Taiwan from becoming a base for China to launch its drive for hegemony in Asia and then globally.
Rick Fisher is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.