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 TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' 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 PompeoCountries reach agreement in Berlin on Libya cease-fire push, arms embargo Trump Jr.: If 'weaker' Republicans only call for certain witnesses, 'they don't deserve to be in office' House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't 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 RischSenate vote on Trump's new NAFTA held up by committee review Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (R-Idaho) said in a statement Friday.

And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request House panel reinvites Pompeo to deliver Iran testimony MORE (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTop Indian official canceled congressional meeting over inclusion of Jayapal: report Republican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' 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.”