A Washington-area advocate for the sale of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan said Friday that a decision on the deal will come soon _ and it looks like the answer may be no.
Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the Arlington, Virginia-based US-Taiwan Business Council, said in an email that the decision will be announced by Oct. 1. He said the timing _ sandwiched between a planned trip to China by Vice President Joe Biden and a visit to Hawaii by Chinese leader Hu Jintao _ does not bode well for the deal.
It "suggests that the Obama administration has no intention of moving forward," he said.
The de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei could not confirm that a decision on the F-16 matter is pending.
The F-16 deal has long been a shadow hanging over the U.S. China relationship. China opposes it _ and all foreign arms sales to Taiwan _ because it regards the self-ruled democratic island as part of its territory and sees foreign arms sales there as interference in its affairs.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
Hammond-Chambers said the Oct. 1 deadline on the F-16 deal was negotiated between Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Cornyn, whose state houses the F-16 production line, has been a strong supporter of Taiwan's bid for the 66 relatively advanced F-16 C/Ds it originally requested in 2006. In exchange for a decision being made _ and Clinton arranging the release of a long-delayed Pentagon study on Taiwan's air force capabilities _ Hammond-Chambers said Cornyn agreed to remove a Senate hold he had placed on the nomination of William Burns to be deputy secretary of state.
Cornyn's office could not be reached for comment on Hammond-Chamber's report.
Despite transferring recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the U.S. remains Taiwan's most important foreign partner. American administrations have a congressionally mandated responsibility to provide the island with defensive weapons.
Besides the F-16 C/D deal, Taiwan also has a long pending request to the U.S. to upgrade its existing fleet of F-16 A/Bs. In his email Hammond-Chambers said the Obama administration agreed to this request in 2010 but has not yet publicly announced that.