Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China

Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China
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Leading lawmakers are commending the Trump administration for moving forward with a proposed sale of F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan after the administration informally notified Congress of the sale, to which China is staunchly opposed.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump holds chummy meeting with Turkey's Erdoğan Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing GOP senators to meet with Turkey's Erdoğan, Trump amid tensions MORE (R-Idaho) said the F-16s are “critical” for Taiwan's defense.

“These fighters are critical to improving Taiwan’s ability to defend its sovereign airspace, which is under increasing pressure from the People’s Republic of China,” Risch said in a statement Friday. “I commend the Trump administration for making this decision to bolster Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, and note the strong bipartisan and bicameral support for this sale.”

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In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation House Democrats pull subpoena for ex-Trump national security official MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTexas GOP congressman calls on governor to postpone execution of Rodney Reed House Republicans add Hunter Biden, whistleblower to impeachment hearing witness wish list Trump: Whistleblower 'must come forward' MORE (R-Texas) said in a joint statement that the sale will send a “strong message.”

“The sale of F-16s to Taiwan sends a strong message about the U.S. commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific,” they said. “As leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are pleased the administration is moving forward with this sale and have every confidence that it will be supported on a bipartisan and bicameral basis.”

The Trump administration sent the committees an informal notification late Thursday that it had approved the sale, two congressional aides confirmed. Taiwan requested to buy 66 F-16s, a sale estimated to be worth $8 billion.

The full Congress still needs to receive a formal notification that the sale has been approved. Typically, that happens 30 days after an informal notification, but the timeline can be sped up.

The State Department declined to comment on the record Friday ahead of the formal notification.

“We are aware of media reports regarding a possible sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Taiwan. The department does not comment on proposed defense sales until they are formally notified to Congress,” a State Department official said.

The administration’s decision to move forward with the sale is sure to anger China at a time when President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE is hoping to secure a trade agreement with Beijing — and while tensions are running high over anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Last month, the Trump administration approved a $2 billion sale to Taiwan for 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and other equipment, prompting China’s foreign ministry to warn that the U.S. was “playing with fire.”

America has not sold new fighter jets to Taiwan since the George H.W. Bush administration, and the prospect is seen as particularly infuriating to China. The Obama administration avoided approving the request for new F-16s, instead opting to upgrade existing Taiwanese aircraft.

Lawmakers, however, have been pushing Trump to approve the sale, worrying that it was being delayed as a bargaining chip in Trump’s trade negotiations with China.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) called the administration’s decision to move forward an “important step” to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense.

“I commend the administration for moving forward with the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan,” he said in a statement Friday. “As the Chinese government and Communist Party seeks to extend its authoritarian reach in the region, it is critical that the United States continue to enhance our strategic relationship with our democratic partner Taiwan through regular and consistent support.”

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement Trump holds chummy meeting with Turkey's Erdoğan Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-Texas) similarly applauded the move as a “critical step toward bolstering” U.S. and Taiwanese security.

“With China building up its military to threaten us and our allies-and the People's Liberation Army aiming thousands of missiles at Taiwan and deploying fighter aircrafts along the Taiwan Strait-now more than ever it is critical that Taiwan has the support needed to defend itself,” Cruz said in a statement.