Asia Minute: Taiwan Latest Tension Point for China/U.S. Relations

Aug 17, 2020

Taiwan has finalized a deal to spend as much as 62 billion dollars on F-16 fighter jets from the United States.  It’s the latest development that continues to increase tensions between the United States and China.

The United States and Taiwan are going through some high-level interactions these days, and the government in Beijing is clearly noticing. Last week saw an unusual set of events in the areas of both diplomacy and defense.

First of all, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen in Taipei — the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the island since 1979. Azar praised Taiwan’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in fewer than 500 cases there — with seven deaths.

Later in the week, the Chinese military held drills in the Taiwan Strait. And a spokesman said it was because of “negative acts” by “some foreign nations” which could send “misleading signals to separatist forces.” China’s state-run media was a bit more blunt, saying the exercises served as a “warning” to anyone who backs independence for Taiwan.

Then on Friday, Taiwan signed a deal to buy as many as 90 F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. military contractor Lockheed Martin. It’s a ten-year contract, and the U.S. Defense Department says the value of it could go to 62-billion dollars.

The last time Taiwan bought F-16’s, it was an older version of the plane, because the year was 1992 and George Bush senior was in the White House.