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US Formalizes Sale of 66 F-16 Jets to Taiwan Amid Heightened China Tensions

© AP Photo / Francois MoriA Lockheed Martin F16 Jet fighter performs its demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at le Bourget airport, east of Paris, Wednesday June 22, 2011.
A Lockheed Martin F16 Jet fighter performs its demonstration flight at the 49th Paris Air Show at le Bourget airport, east of Paris, Wednesday June 22, 2011. - Sputnik International
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Taiwan has formally signed an agreement to buy 66 of Lockheed Martin’s latest F-16 jets, marking the first sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan since 1992, when then-US President George H.W. Bush approved the sale of 150 F-16s.

On Friday, the US Department of Defense released a copy of a contract that shows defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin has been awarded $62 billion for the new production of 90 F-16 aircraft, 66 of which will be purchased by Taiwan. 

According to the Pentagon’s announcement, construction of the 90 jets will be completed by December 31, 2026. The aircraft will be assembled at Lockheed’s facilities in Greenville, South Carolina, and Fort Worth, Texas.

When the planned sale was announced in August 2019, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters that “US arms sales to Taiwan severely violate the one-China principle,” Bloomberg reported. 

Hua also noted that the Chinese government was urging the US to refrain from selling the “fighter jets to Taiwan and stop arms sales to, and military contact with, Taiwan.”

“Otherwise, the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions, and the US will have to bear all the consequences,” she added.

Even though it adopted the “One-China policy” in 1979, which acknowledges Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China, the US maintains close independent trade ties with Taiwan and is its main defense supplier.

The latest contract is likely to further strain relations between the US and China, especially since the latter considers Taiwan part of its territory and claims sovereignty over it.

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