Taipei (AFP) Jan 7, 2011
Taiwan's defence ministry said Friday it was keeping a close eye on the development of China's first stealth fighter and would keep pushing for advanced aircraft from the United States.
"We are watching the situation closely and continue to gather relevant information," said ministry spokesman Yu Sy-tue, responding to recent reports that China had completed a prototype J-20 stealth jet.
Washington has so far downplayed the significance of the new fighter, with a top Navy official predicting it would take years before it becomes operational.
The threat is perhaps felt more keenly in Taiwan, which has for more than 60 years lived under the threat of Chinese invasion, as a military report last year acknowledged that Beijing has better fighter jets than the island.
"Taiwan needs to strengthen its aerial defence due to a growing imbalance between the two sides. We need advanced fighter aircraft and we will press our calls to buy the jets from the US," he said.
Taipei applied to the US government to buy 66 F-16 C/D fighters in early 2007, but observers say Washington has held up the deal for fear of angering Beijing.
China opposes any arms sales to Taiwan, which it considers a part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and have been governed separately since.
Taiwan maintains that it still needs to maintain sufficient self defence despite improving ties in recent years.
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