Money for Taiwan’s $8 billion purchase of 66 Viper fighter jets was set aside on Tuesday via a special budget bill passed by the Yuan, the island’s legislature. The bill provides a legal basis for dispensing funds on the deal until the end of 2026, according to Channel News Asia.
The US State and Defense Departments approved the sale in late August amid protest from Beijing, which considers the Taiwan government illegitimate and the island to be a breakaway province of China. By contrast, the government of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, believes it’s the only legitimate government of China and that its power on the mainland was usurped by the communist Red Army in 1949 when the People’s Republic was formed. Beijing celebrated the 70th anniversary of that event at the beginning of the month.
The US had steady relations with the Republican government before the communist victory, and Washington continued that relationship for decades after, only switching diplomatic recognition to the PRC in Beijing once it became advantageous to do so in the late 1970s. Despite this, the US has continued an informal relationship with the Taipei government, funneling them outdated weapons and money in a bid to keep the island out of Beijing’s hands.
The sale of 66 Vipers, the most advanced version of General Dynamics’ multirole aircraft, is thus a shift of pace for the relationship. The last time Washington sold Taipei jets was 30 years ago, and those, too, were F-16s. The Pentagon is overseeing the upgrading of those older F-16s via a separate deal with Taiwan.
One way or the other, Taiwan aims to have a total of 208 F-16Vs in service by 2026, according to Taiwan News.