Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s committee briefing entitled “Why Taiwan Matters, Part II”:
Thank you Madame Chairman.
At the first part of this hearing in June, I made an extensive opening statement on the critical importance of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. Today, as we open part two of the hearing, I want to reiterate my strong support for Taiwan and for bolstering all aspects of our bilateral ties.
With an upcoming presidential election in Taiwan next year, the people of Taiwan will once again exercise their democratic right to directly choose a president.
I strongly support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy, and I want to assure the Taiwanese people that the United States will respect the choice they make in January and will continue to support them, no matter who is elected.
Despite a marked improvement in the economic and social ties between Taipei and Beijing, China still has not renounced the use of military force against Taiwan. On the contrary, Beijing has increased the number of missiles targeted at Taiwan.
During the earlier hearing on Taiwan, Members on both sides of the aisle expressed a strong commitment to maintaining Taiwan’s security in the face of the growing Chinese military threat. To address this threat, the United States should continue to supply Taiwan with weapons so that it can defend itself.
I welcome the Obama Administration’s recent decision to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets, and would note that this Administration has sold more defense systems to Taiwan in a shorter time span than the previous administration. However, I view the upgrades as only a first step. Taiwan’s air force needs more-advanced F-16s to adequately defend itself from China, and it needs them soon.
Projections of Taiwan’s Air Force stocks indicate a significant decline from its current fleet of some 377 fighter jets – which includes F-16 A/Bs, Vietnam-era F-5s, Taiwanese Indigenous Fighters, and Mirage 2000s – to fewer than 275 fighters by 2020. Not only will Taiwan have fewer planes, but also less capability, while the Chinese Air Force and missile squadrons deployed across the Taiwan Strait are growing at an exponential rate.
As a result of the Administration’s decision, Taiwan will ultimately have 145 F-16s that have been retrofitted to be equivalent to the F-16 C/Ds through the sale of the upgrade kits. But if the Administration had provided both the upgrade kits and the advanced fighters requested by Taipei, then Taiwan would have 211 F-16 C/D aircraft delivered in the same time period as the upgrade kits alone.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today, and am eager to hear their views on how Congress and the Administration can work together to support Taiwan’s democracy and security.