WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- The Obama administration told U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, it is considering the sale of upgraded fighter jets to Taiwan.
Cornyn released a letter sent to him by the White House promising to give "serious consideration" to the deal, which would no doubt please workers at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth but would also miff Taiwan's rivals in China.
"Your proposal warrants serious consideration given the growing military threat to Taiwan, and we will give it serious consideration as we move forward in our planning discussions with the Taiwan military," the letter signed by White House Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors said. "We are committed to duly evaluating its merits as deliberations continue over Taiwan's long-term defense priorities and requirements."
The upgrade would move Taiwan's air force up from its current F-16 A/B fleet to the F-16 C/D. Taiwan has been pressing Washington to green-light the purchase since 2011. The Wall Street Journal said Saturday the administration decided at the time to agree to modernize Taiwan's existing A/B aircraft rather than risk alienating Beijing by selling the newer planes.
The timing of the letter could complicate next week's visit to China by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. At the same time, the Journal said, political analysts have said the change of tune from the White House was not unexpected as the president lays the groundwork for his re-election campaign in Texas and other battleground states with defense plants.