WASHINGTON • Taiwan formally signed an agreement to buy 66 of the latest model F-16 jets built by Lockheed Martin, a move likely to further inflame tensions between the United States and China.
Taiwan’s purchase of the F-16s marks the first sale of advanced fighter jets to the island since then US President George H.W. Bush announced approval for 150 F-16s in 1992.
A US$62 billion (S$85 billion) figure announced by the Pentagon last Friday is the upper limit of numerous contracts if all potential foreign customers placed their maximum desired number over the decade.
The move is likely to be denounced by Beijing, even though the US first signalled its plans to approve the sale a year ago in an informal notification to Congress, and it could still be years before the jets are delivered.
The announcement said that work on the 90 jets potentially to be sold under last Friday’s announcement would be completed by late 2026.
Meanwhile, the US Navy said it sent an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Ronald Reagan to the South China Sea last Friday to conduct maritime air defence operations.
“Integration with our joint partners is essential to ensuring joint force responsiveness and lethality, and maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” air operations officer Joshua Fagan aboard the USS Ronald Reagan said in the statement.
Tensions between the United States and China are escalating.
The Trump administration last month rejected China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, reversing a previous policy of not taking sides in such disputes.