Cornyn, Menendez pressure Obama to sell fighter planes to Taiwan

The economy and the need for U.S. job creation also plays an important role in the sale. The F-16 production line could shut down without this deal as production shifts to the newer F-35. The bill cites a report by The Perryman Group, a private economic research firm, stating that F-16 production directly supports 23,407 jobs.

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"Taiwanese pilots flying Taiwanese fighter aircraft manufactured in the United States represent the best first line of defense for our democratic ally, and delaying the decision to sell F-16s to Taiwan could result in the closure of the F-16 production line, which would cost New Jersey 750 manufacturing jobs," Menendez said.

Taiwan has been requesting these fighters since 2006, but congressional pressure is building now in light of China's ongoing defense buildup.

"The threat from China continues to grow, and that threat is more acute five years down the road," U.S.-Taiwan Business Council President Rupert Hammond-Chambers told The Hill. The council urges the passage of the bill.

Hammond-Chambers also sees a connection between the employment benefits and Asia-Pacific policy. 

"Economics is a part of national security," said Hammond-Chambers. "Having the F-16 line open is an important foreign policy tool."

The government-controlled People's Daily came out in strong opposition to the arms sale bill this week. "No country will permit other countries to violate its core interests and China has also set a specific scope of its core interests," the paper wrote. "It should remind the bewildered U.S. congressmen: Do not go too far."

Earlier this year, Cornyn held up the nomination of Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns over this issue, and got the Obama administration to agree to make a final decision on selling the planes to Taiwan by Oct. 1. But according to press reports, some are already expecting the administration to decide against the sale, and possibly explore ways to help Taiwan upgrade its existing fleet.