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U.S. Republicans urge the President to sell F-35 fighter jets to Taiwan

On Monday, March 26th, two senior U.S. Republican senators urged the Trump administration to allow the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Taiwan. They argued that it would help Taiwan “remain a democracy” vis-à-vis mainland China.

In their letter to President Trump, Senators John Cornyn, the assistant majority leader, and James Inhofe, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, said: “These fighters will have a positive impact on Taiwan’s self-defense and would act as a necessary deterrent to China’s aggressive military posture across the Asia-Pacific region.”

"The survivability of the F-35B and modern long-range sensors could help Taiwan intercept Chinese missiles, promoting deterrence well into the next decade," said Cornyn and Inhofe, "The F-35B would not only provide a modern fifth-generation fighter, but would also bolster their capabilities in next-generation warfare."

The potential sale of the F-35 jets is expected to increase tensions with Beijing, especially when the latter is ‘strongly dissatisfied’ by President Trump’s decision to approve the Taiwan Travel Act this month, which encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa.

In a statement on last Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the bill’s clauses “severely violate” the “one China” principle.

“We urge the US side to correct its mistake, stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way,” said Lu.

In a separate statement, the Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian urged the US to stop pursuing any US-Taiwan military ties and stop arms sales to Taiwan in case of serious damage to the bilateral and military relations between China and the US.

Earlier this month, in a speech at the closing session of the annual National People's Congress, Chinese President Xi declared that "Any actions and tricks to split China are doomed to failure and will meet with the people's condemnation and the punishment of history.” It is considered the strongest warning to Taiwan by President Xi to date. President Xi has just officially embarked on his second term. Compared to predecessors, he has been adopting a tougher approach to foreign affairs including Taiwan, which is subsumed under “core interests” according to Chinese officials.

On the other hand, analysts believe that the US President Trump is willing to use so-called One-China policy as a bargaining chip to advance US interests in trade, currency and geopolitical issues, such as the disputed South China Sea. Analysts believe the potential F-35 fighter sale could serve as a supplement to the recent economic confrontation between the US and China.

On last Thursday, President Trump signed an executive memorandum that would impose up to $60 billion retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports. Soon after, China announced a plan to impose tariffs on $3 billion worth of American-produced fruit, pork, wine, seamless steel pipes and more than 100 other goods. Some experts considered such recent developments as the beginning of a Sino-US trade war.