18:26 GMT12 April 2021
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    The Taiwanese Defense Ministry has categorically rejected the notion that Taipei might lease F-15 Eagles from the US Air Force as tensions simmer between Washington and Beijing.

    Taiwanese Major General Chen Chung-chi dismissed the lease proposal as "pure speculation by the media," the Taipei Times reported Wednesday.

    The Up Times first reported on Monday that the USAF might offer the F-15 to Taiwan's air force amid warnings from Chinese President Xi Jinping that any attempts at secession or independence by the island were "doomed to fail."

    Taipei reportedly also wants to buy fifth-generation F-35 aircraft from the US. US President Donald Trump has been willing to antagonize China with tariffs and the recent signing of the Taiwan Travel Act, but supplying Taipei with F-35s is a boundary even Trump seems unwilling to cross.

    Beijing has long considered Taipei a wayward province belonging to the People's Republic of China, but the island is de facto self-governing for the better part of a century. Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office in May 2016, Beijing-Taipei relations have deteriorated, the Diplomat reported.

    The Taiwanese air force, officially known as the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF), consists primarily of Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters, F-5 Tiger IIs, F-16 Block A and Block B aircraft, and domestically produced F-CK-1 Ching-kuo jets.

    Taiwan and Lockheed Martin partnered together in early 2017 on a multibillion dollar deal to begin upgrading Taiwan's fleet of 144 F-16A/Bs into F-16V variants.


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