Taiwan’s president unveiled the country’s combat wing of advanced US-made F-16 fighters in a ceremony on Thursday, showing its new Air Force capabilities against mainland China.
At an airbase in Chiayi (south Taiwanese), the event saw the commissioning of the first combat wing for F-16 fighters by the island. It was developed with US assistance.
The F-16 upgrades, costing T$110 billion (USD$3.95 billion), have been jointly completed by American manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp and Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corp.
Taiwan’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, touted the new F-16s as ensuring that the island’s defenses would be “even stronger”In the face of increasing tensions with China.
In October, Beijing sent a record 150 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in four straight days of incursions. Over the past year, China’s Air Force has increased military activity in and around Taiwan’s ADIZ, according to Taipei.
Despite Taipei claiming it does not want to provoke a confrontation with China, the island’s president pledged that it will “do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
China denied claims it was provoking conflict on Taiwan. Taiwan it considers an integral part, and has accused America of “inflating”The island separatist movement strongly stated that “Taiwan independence”Beijing won’t let this happen. “take all steps”It will keep the island under its authority. China’s assertiveness in recent years has seen it become more determined to reunite its rich island neighbour with the mainland.
Taiwan has seen the F-16’s successful development as the most visible indicator of Washington, DC’s military partnership with Taipei. Back in 2019, America approved an $8 billion sale of F-16s to Taiwan, which would bring the total number of jets in the island’s fleet to 200.
The Taiwanese president thanked America for its continued cooperation with Taiwan despite China’s opposition. “As long as we adhere to the values of democracy and freedom, there will be more like-minded countries standing on the same front with us,” Tsai said alongside US diplomat Sandra Oudkirk.
After the US and Taiwan had agreed to modernize the F-16 fighter planes in 2019, Geng Shuang, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry threatened to suspend American companies if the agreement was not stopped. Beijing opposed Taipei-DC’s military cooperation, asserting that this sale was illegal, would harm relations and infringe the One China policy, which America acknowledges.
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