US approves F-16 sale to Taiwan, China threatens sanctions

The US State Department on Tuesday approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan, in a move expected to anger Beijing.

Taiwan will get the latest version of the Lockheed Martin-built fighter, the F-16C/D Block 70, in the $8 billion deal, the State Department said.

However, China has threatened to impose sanctions on US firms involved with the sale of F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan if Washington goes ahead with the deal.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged the US to stop the arms sales and end military contact with Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that President Donald 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 United States 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.”

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

A spokesman for the Taiwanese president released a statement saying the jets would “substantially enhance our air defense capabilities to help Taiwan’s self-defense and maintain the people’s freedom and welfare.”

The sale’s approval will have a key role in “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and region, especially in the wake of China’s frequent military actions… in the region in recent years,” the statement said.

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

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.”