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

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

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 TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE is hoping to secure a trade agreement with Beijing.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 PompeoOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Cheney calls for Turkish leader's bodyguards to be banned from re-entering US Pompeo: Trump to discuss political solution for Syria in meeting with Erdoğan 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 RischOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Graham: Schiff comment on inquiry findings 'full of crap' MORE (R-Idaho) said in a statement Friday.

And 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 McCaulHouse Republicans add Hunter Biden, whistleblower to impeachment hearing witness wish list Trump: Whistleblower 'must come forward' House approves Turkey sanctions in rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump 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.”