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U.S. congressman supports new subs, F-16s for Taiwan (update)
Central News Agency
2013-01-28 10:51 PM
Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) U.S. Congressman Edward Royce (R-CA) said in Taipei Monday that he is in favor of the United States selling new submarines and F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. "With respect to submarines, Taiwan is in need of upgrades in terms of their submarine fleet and I support newer subs for Taiwan," Royce, the new chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said at a press conference. He said the focus of the U.S. is on the objective of having Taiwan obtain diesel submarines. "Our goal is to find an effective way to meet that objective," he added. Pointing out that the congressional delegation he led on its Jan. 26-28 visit to Taiwan is here to learn more about the country's defense needs, Royce said his delegation has "begun that process" of meeting that objective. He added that a day earlier, the delegation toured one of the Navy's existing submarines, a Guppy-class "Sea Lion" in southern Taiwan, as well as attended a briefing on Taiwan's defense needs. Meanwhile, Royce said he believes "Taiwan should have the ability to acquire new F-16s" and that he has in the past urged the U.S. administration to grant that request from Taiwan. Asked if Taiwan should vie for the next generation of F-35 fighter jets, the congressman said he believes that the F-16 C/Ds would be a "better decision." When asked what are the chances of the Obama administration approving sales of F-16 C/Ds and F-35s to Taiwan, Royce said he can't give a probability on that, but "what I can share with you is our intentions to continue to push for the strongest position." President Ma Ying-jeou said earlier in the day during a meeting with the delegation that Taiwan badly needs a new generation of submarines to beef up its naval fleet. Taiwan has been eager to procure new jets and enhance its defense capability amid concerns over China's growing military strength. In April 2001, then-U.S. President George W. Bush announced the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package for the island since 1992. Since then, however, there has been little progress in finalizing the deal. Asked about his view on the face-off between Taiwan and Japan last week in waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, Royce said the U.S. does not take a position on the sovereignty issue, but he advised against rhetoric that would escalate tensions in the region. He said such rhetoric is "unhelpful," would create uncertainty in the market and is not in the interest of Asian citizens. As for trade issues between the two sides, the congressman said it is a good time to resume bilateral talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and discuss issues related to a free trade agreement. "Now it's a good time to move forward and embrace the steps that would be needed to be taken in order to achieve that result ... Now is the opportune time to look at what we can also do long-term in order to help Taiwan economically," said Royce. Royce said that one of the main purposes of the trip is to learn more about Taiwan's needs and to carry the message across the party line and call for the resumption of TIFA talks soon. "The stronger the economy, the stronger the security," he said, adding that if Taiwan and the U.S. had a free trade agreement, that would logically strengthen Taiwan's economic and security position. Asked if the U.S. government will eventually export pork containing the livestock feed additive ractopamine to Taiwan, Royce said he had no idea what the outcome will be. Ractopamine is currently banned in pork imports in Taiwan but allowed in imported beef parts. Royce said the two sides have been able to compromise in the past on many issues and can move forward and try to resolve trade disputes. "The initial step here is to get the TIFA agreement and then we can move toward the compromises necessary to reach the objective of a free trade agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership along the way," said Royce. (By Christie Chen and James Lee)
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