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Taiwan criticizes Obama team over new F-16 holdup

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - Taiwan accused the Obama administration on Monday of yielding to pressure from China over arms sales to the self-ruled island, renewing its push for new Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter aircraft.

"These years, China is showing stronger and stronger reaction to U.S.-Taiwan arms sales, and that have turned your country more wary with arms sales," Andrew Yang, the deputy defense minister, told an annual U.S.-Taiwan defense industry conference in Virginia.

The Obama administration informally told U.S. lawmakers late on Friday that it would upgrade Taiwan's existing 140-plus F-16 A/B jets while holding off on a request for 66 new F-16 C/Ds, the latest model, according to Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the business group.

The reported decision to hold off the new F-16s prompted criticism in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere that President Barack Obama is yielding to Beijing despite a 1979 U.S. law that requires Washington to provide sufficient arms for Taiwan's self-defense.

Yang told the industry forum that Taiwan's most urgent military hardware needs were new F-16 C/Ds and diesel electric submarines -- sales that Beijing appears to oppose above all other U.S. arms supplies to Taiwan to date.

He said the new F-16s would replace antiquated F-5s "to maintain air superiority across the Taiwan Strait in the near future."

The new F-16s would offer "irreplaceable deterrence capabilities" as part of a modernized force to defend Taiwan and deter conflicts, Yang said,

(Reporting by Jim Wolf; editing by Philip Barbara)

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