Taiwan proposes $3bn spending on new weapons, gets F-16 boost

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Taipei.

Taiwan will spend an extra 94.3 billion Taiwan dollars (2.97 billion dollars) to buy weapons for 2024 including fighter jets to bolster its defenses against China.

The government said on Thursday that it would get a further boost from new F-16 fighter jet tracking systems.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, had ramped up military and political pressure over the past three years to assert those claims, which Taipei strongly rejects.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen had already announced on Monday that overall proposed defence spending for 2024 would be set at 606.8 billion Taiwan dollars, a 3.5 per cent increase from the previous year.

About half of the 94.3 billion Taiwan dollars additional spend would be used to purchase fighter jets, and the remainder will go into bolstering naval defenses.

The government’s statistics department said after a cabinet meeting to discuss the budget.

The U.S. on Wednesday approved a possible 500 million dollars sale to Taiwan of infrared search and track systems for F-16 fighter jets, as well as other equipment.

Taiwan deputy defence minister Po Horng-huei told reporters the search and tracking systems were the same as those used by F-35 and F-22 fighters, among the most advanced the U.S. operates.

“These will help to target the J-20 stealth fighter over the Taiwan Strait in the future,’’ Po said, referring to the new generation of Chinese jets.

It would allow Taiwan to more effectively deter Chinese air activity, he added.

China, which routinely denounced any foreign arms sales to Taiwan, urged the U.S. to immediately cancel the planned sale, its foreign ministry said.

Taiwan’s defence budget would have to be approved by parliament, where Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party had a majority.

The island’s defence spending for next year would amount to 2.5 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Tsai had overseen a military modernisation programme to make the armed forces better able to face China, including upgrading a fleet of F-16 fighter jets and developing submarines.

Tsai said on Monday that the first prototype indigenous submarine was expected to be unveiled next month as scheduled.

Taiwan had been converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the F-16V type and had ordered 66 new F-16Vs, which have advanced avionics.

Weapons and radar systems to better faced down the Chinese air force, including its J-20 stealth fighters.

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