Taiwan formally signed a deal to buy F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin amid spiking tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The purchase marks the first time since 1992 that advanced fighter jets have been sold to the island and is likely to spark reproach from China, which has repeatedly warned against selling advanced weaponry to an island it considers its own territory.
The sale, which the Pentagon announced Friday, was first floated a year ago and will be completed by late 2026. Ninety jets will potentially be sold as part of Friday’s announcement.
The new F-16s are being built at Lockheed’s facility in Greenville, S.C.
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry last year urged the U.S. to “refrain” from selling the “fighter jets to Taiwan and stop arms sales to and military contact with Taiwan. Otherwise, the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions, and the U.S. will have to bear all the consequences.”
Since the warning, ties between the U.S. and China have grown increasingly strained, with the two countries butting heads on sovereignty over the South China Sea, 5G access, a new and controversial security law in Hong Kong and more.