The Obama administration made a tough call this week, choosing to withhold advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets from Taiwan, which appeases China but risks leaving an important ally vulnerable. The U.S. will instead sell an estimated $4.2 billion arms package to Taiwan, including equipment to upgrade the island nation's aging F-16 A/B jets. Feeding ammo to the administratin's critics, The Washington Times reports that a forthcoming Pentagon study is expected to show that Taiwan's air force "urgently needs modernization." However, there are a number of reasons that show the wisdom of withholding the advanced jets from Taiwan. Here are a handful:
China was throwing a fit As Paul Eckert at Reuters reports, China's Foreign Ministry doubled down on its opposition to the sale of F-16s today, advising Washington to "avoid any unnecessary disturbance and damage to bilateral ties." On the domestic front, "an official newspaper warned that 'madmen' on Capitol Hill pushing the F-16 sale were playing with fire and could pay a 'disastrous price' if the Obama administration went ahead with any sale."
U.S. debt was a factor As Bill Gertz at The Washington Times notes "China’s U.S. debt holdings also likely influenced the decision. In February 2010, Chinese military leaders called for punishing the United States for arms sales to Taiwan by calling in some of the $1.1 trillion in China’s Treasury debt holdings."