The United States will decide by Oct. 1 on Taiwan's long-mooted bid to buy F-16 fighter jets, a senior American official said Friday, and a Washington-based advocate of the deal suggested it would likely be rejected.
The official said the deadline for deciding on the bid, which involves 66 relatively advanced F-16 C/Ds, followed discussions between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, where the planes are assembled.
In exchange for agreeing to the deadline, the official said _ and for Clinton arranging for the release of a long-delayed Pentagon report on Taiwan's air force capabilities _ Cornyn will remove the Senate hold he has imposed on the nomination of William Burns to be deputy secretary of state.
The official is not authorized to comment on the F-16 matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Taiwan advocate Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the Arlington, Virginia-based US-Taiwan Business Council, said in an email that the October deadline indicated the sale would probably not go through, because that date is sandwiched between two high-profile meetings involving senior American and Chinese officials.
"The timing suggests that the Obama administration has no intention of moving forward," he said.
The F-16 deal, first mooted in 2006, 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 Chinese affairs.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
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.
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Bali, Indonesia.