Date: APRIL 5, 2019
By: John Walcott and Justin Worland
The Trump Administration has put on hold a previously reported sale of jet fighters to Taiwan until the United States seals a trade deal with China, three Administration officials told TIME on Thursday.
That decision has contributed to concern among some in the Administration that the President may soon go soft on China in his desire to secure a trade deal. The draft trade agreement currently under negotiation would boost Trump’s political fortunes and ease the jittery stock market, but it is unlikely to address many of the issues at the core of the U.S.-China trade dispute, said the U.S. officials, who spoke anonymously because they aren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The move underscores the complexity and difficulty of balancing U.S. relations with an increasingly powerful China against the American commitment to help Taiwan defend itself. The White House’s initial decision, first reported late last month, to offer tacit approval for Taiwan to buy 60 Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter jets was widely seen as a U.S. show of strength against China.
The sale would be the first time the U.S. has sold F-16s to Taiwan since 1992. While the U.S. has a statutory obligation to aid Taiwan’s defense in its decades-long standoff with China, recent administrations have stopped short of allowing the island to buy new fighter jets. The Trump Administration’s apparent pause on the arms sale therefore represents a new deference to China. [FULL STORY]