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Taipei ends interest in F-16 deal

July 19, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - The Financial Times reports Taiwan has abandoned its interest in purchasing 66 block 52 F-16s from the US in an attempt to rescue a larger arms package sale before President Bush leaves the White House.

The official said Taipei was no longer pursuing the F-16s, worth $5bn, as there now seemed no chance of success. "We are concentrating on the more basic, less controversial stuff right now," he said.

After coming into office, President Bush had approved an arms package worth $11bn consisting of diesel-electric submarines, anti-submarine aircraft, and Patriot surface-to-air missiles. However Taiwanese government failed to approve the funding necessary to complete the purchase.

The decision to abandon the pursuit of the F-16 block 52 aircraft came after Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US Pacific command, confirmed this week for the first time that Washington had frozen arms sales to Taiwan. According to Keating tensions in the region have eased some what and the US administration have said that there is no pressing need for sales of arms to Taiwan at this time.

Taiwan believe the decision to freeze sales may be looked at again after the Olympics games are over. Taiwanese officials believe the US are trying to get China on board in co-operation in tackling trouble in Iran and North Korea. "We hope that once the Olympics are over and things are less politically sensitive for Beijing, things can start moving again. Otherwise it will be too late to get these sales back on track under the current administration," said a senior Taiwan security official.

Beijing officials said this week that the sale freeze had been adopted in accordance to a 1982 joint communiqué under which the US pledged to reduce weapons sales to Taiwan gradually.