The government of Taiwan has submitted an official request to purchase new fighter jets from the United States designed to “counter current enemy threats,” as tension with China over the island’s sovereignty continues to mount.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s Deputy Defence Minister Shen Yi-ming told reporters that the move was in response to increasing Chinese military presence in the region.
“We made the request to purchase [fighter jets] because China has been increasing its military strength and we are starting to have an imbalance of power in our air defense capabilities,” Shen said.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s strategic planning director Huang Wen-chi added the government is not demanding any specific type of fighter jet and would consider a range of possible options, including F-15, F-18, F-16, and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth aircraft.
“We didn’t mention any of these models in our request,” Hung explained. “It will depend on what models the US proposes to us, and then we will choose.”
The request comes as Beijing steps up its military aggression against Taiwan, a self-governed island which separated from the mainland during the 1949 civil war. However, China argues Taiwan is part of its historic territory and demands that the two countries must ultimately be reunified, in what is referred to as the ‘One China Policy.’
If granted, the request is likely to further stoke tensions between the U.S. and China, as the Trump administration continues to show steadfast support for Taiwan’s demands for full independence.
Last week, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warned other Asian nations they may become next targets of Chinese aggression unless they stand by Taiwan’s right to self-determination.
“If it’s Taiwan today, people should ask who’s next? Any country in the region, if it no longer wants to submit to the will of China, they would face similar military threats,” Tsai said in an interview with CNN.
“I believe this is not just an issue of Taiwan under attack, but a reflection of China’s willingness to use force for its expansionist policy. It’s not just Taiwan’s interests at stake, it’s the whole region’s or even the whole world’s,” she said.