Taiwan renews bid to buy subs, F-16s from US

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 22 2011 06:27 PM | Updated as of May 23 2011 02:27 AM

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan on Sunday said it was still pursuing its bid to buy eight submarines and dozens of F-16 fighters from the United States despite warming relations with former arch-rival China.

The Taipei-based China Times reported Sunday that Taiwan had decided to accept a US proposal of just four conventional submarines to help expedite the arms deal which has been in limbo since 2001.

"The report is not true. The country's position to seek (eight) diesel-powered submarines and F-16C/Ds has never changed," Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement.

"The deal is still in the US government's screening process. The ministry will keep pushing for the deal so as to meet Taiwan's self-defence demands."

In April 2001 then US president George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package to the island since 1992.

Since then, however, there has been little progress as the United States has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years, and Germany and Spain had reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.

Taiwan also applied to the US government to buy 66 F-16 fighters in early 2007, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.

The Taiwanese defense ministry's statement came after a week-long visit to the United States by Chinese People's Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde.

Chen said the main source of friction was over Taiwan and renewed his objection to any US arms sales to the island, which China still regards as part of its territory awaiting reunification by force if necessary even though Taiwan has governed itself since 1949 at the end of a civil war.

The United States in January 2010 approved a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, prompting a furious Beijing to halt military exchanges and security talks with Washington.

Washington switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but has remained a leading arms supplier to Taiwan.