Taiwan welcomes US reconsideration on jet sale

TAIPEI - Taiwan on Sunday said it welcomed the pledge by the United States to reconsider a proposed sale of new fighter jets to the island, a defence deal likely to upset Beijing.

Taiwan has been pushing for the purchase of 66 new US-made F-16 fighter jets, but the deal has been stalled by Washington.

The White House on Friday promised "serious consideration" to selling the jets in the wake of "the growing military threat to Taiwan".

"Taiwan welcome any projects that will help enhance and strengthen our self-defence capabilities," Taiwan's defence ministry spokesman David Lo said, declining to elaborate on the sensitive issue.

Under US law, the administration is required to provide for the self-defence of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China claims as its territory.

Washington announced in September it would equip Taiwan's 146 F-16 A/B jets with new technologies, in a $5.85 billion deal which falls short of the island's fervent wish for 66 new F-16 C/Ds.

Although the package was less than what Taiwan had hoped for, it triggered an angry response from China, which warned that the deal would damage Sino-US military ties.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have eased markedly since 2008 when Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power on platform of beefing up trade and tourism links with China.

Yet China still considers it part of its territory and has threatened to invade Taiwan even though the island has ruled itself for more than 60 years at the end of a civil war in 1949.

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