TAICHUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen vowed on Friday to defend the island with a “solid” air force when she held a US-backed maintenance center for the island’s fleet of upgraded F-16 fighters growing tensions between the two set up Taipei and Beijing.
Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) aircraft fly in formation during a dedication ceremony of an F-16 fighter aircraft maintenance center in Taichung, Taiwan, on Aug. 28, 2020. REUTERS / Ann Wang
Frequent Chinese and US military exercises in the region raise fears of conflict sparked by a crisis over Taiwan, which Beijing is calling its own territory.
“Defending the sovereignty of the ROC and maintaining peace and stability in the region requires solid defense skills, not bow and curvature,” Tsai said at a ceremony held by the island’s first maintenance center in downtown Taichung for its most advanced F was unveiled in -16s.
The Republic of China is Taiwan’s official name.
Tsai said the hub marks a milestone in their years of effort to build Taiwan’s defense industry.
“The time required for jet maintenance is greatly reduced and availability is increased significantly, thereby ensuring the combat effectiveness of the Air Force at the front,” she said.
Tsai complained about increased Chinese military exercises and warned on Thursday of the risk of accidental conflict.
The hub, run by U.S. arms maker Lockheed Martin Corp and Taiwanese Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (AIDC), is the latest example of Washington-Taipei military collaboration.
The United States approved a $ 8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan last year, expanding the island’s F-16 fleet to more than 200 jets, the largest in Asia .
AIDC President Ma Wan-juni said the hub will service jets for Taiwan’s Air Force and that the company plans to expand it as a maintenance hub for F-16s in the region. He declined to elaborate on it.
The United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is the island’s main international supporter and arms supplier.
China said last month it would sanction Lockheed Martin for engaging in arms sales to Taiwan.
Reporting by Yimou Lee. Adaptation by Gerry Doyle