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U.S. Favors Israel’s Sale of Kfir Warplanes to Taiwan

The State Department said today that the U.S. will “look favorably upon Israel’s sale of its Kfir warplanes to Taiwan should those two governments agree on a contract.” In an apparent reversal of the previous American position on such a sale, Department spokesman Hodding Carter indicated that the U.S., which has been considering selling its own F-4 Phantom jets to Taiwan, would pass up that deal should the Taiwan government choose to buy the Israeli planes.

Taiwan is said to want 40-60 combat jets, either Kfirs or Phantoms. Carter said that “no decision” has been made by the U.S. on either the Israeli-Taiwan deal or the sale of Phantoms, but he seemed to lean toward the idea that Israel would make the sale. He noted that when Vice President Walter Mondale visited Israel last weekend, the U.S. took the position that it would look favorably on the sale although he could not say what “the Republic of China (Taiwan) has in mind regarding this.”

He skirted the idea that improving U.S. relations with the People’s Republic of China was a factor in the current U.S. position. “I have no idea” when and if Washington informed Peking that it might sell Phantoms to Taiwan, Carter said. It was indicated here, however, that such a sale would dampen the atmosphere between Peking and Washington in the wake of the Carter Administration’s growing cordiality with the People’s Republic.

Carter said the U.S. position on the sale of Israeli jets to Taiwan in no way altered its apposition to the sale of the same planes to Ecuador. The U.S. has blocked that deal on grounds that it does not want advanced weaponry introduced to Latin America. The U.S. exercises control over the export of Kfir jets because the Israeli aircraft is powered by American-made engines and incorporates American know-how. Carter declined to specify the number of planes involved in any deal with Taiwan.

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