Trump moves forward with $8 billion F-16 sale to Taiwan

Trump moves forward with $8 billion F-16 sale to Taiwan
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The Trump administration on Tuesday formally notified Congress of a potential $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that China fiercely opposes.

Details of the sale, posted to the website of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, includes 66 F-16C/D aircraft, spares and related equipment.

The administration’s decision to move ahead with the sale is likely to infuriate China at a time when President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE is hoping to secure a trade agreement with Beijing.

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Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of China — objecting to past U.S. arms sales to the island state — though Taiwan is largely self-governing.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Pence says US is 'locked and loaded' to defend allies US-Iran next moves — Déjà vu of Obama administration mistakes? MORE on Monday seemed to downplay the sale, saying that it is “deeply consistent with the arrangements, the historical relationship between the United States and China.”

"Our actions are consistent with past U.S. policy. We are simply following through on the commitments we’ve made to all of the parties,” he said during a Fox News interview.

The deal still must be approved by Congress, though there is unlikely to be any pushback. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been pushing Trump to approve the sale, worrying that it was being delayed as a bargaining chip in the president’s trade negotiations with China.

“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,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischTrump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran MORE (R-Idaho) said in a statement Friday.

And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House chairman subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan negotiator Giuliani tears into Democrats after House opens probe into whether he pressured Ukraine to target Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTexas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks House panel calls for Afghanistan envoy to testify about deal with Taliban, hints at subpoena MORE (R-Texas) said in a joint statement that the sale will send a “strong message about the U.S. commitment to security and democracy in the Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. government has not sold new fighter jets to Taiwan since the George H.W. Bush administration.

The Obama administration avoided approving the request for new F-16s, instead opting to upgrade existing Taiwanese aircraft, as selling the island state new aircraft is seen as particularly infuriating to China.

But the Trump administration, eager to boost U.S. foreign military sales, has hoped to increase its deals and last month approved a $2 billion sale to the island for 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and other equipment.

That deal prompted China’s foreign ministry to warn that the U.S. was “playing with fire.”