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As FX decision nears, Taiwan sees fighter as symbol of US attitudes

The "FX decision" is approaching. The FX is not just a second-level-of-sophistication fighter aircraft that Taiwan wants to buy from the United States. Much more than that, the FX has become a symbol.

Which way the Reagan administration's FX decision flies will indicate:

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1. Taiwan's position in US foreign policy -- whether President Reagan has a special commitment to implement more fully the Taiwan Relations Act.

2. How much influence the People's Republic of China (wholly opposed to any weapons sales to Taiwan) has over the administration's decisionmaking vis-a-vis Taiwan.

The FX decision and the Taiwan Relations Act were very much in everyone's minds here during the recent visits of Sen. John Glenn (D) of Ohio, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Clement Zablocki (D) of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Some of the remarks made to the press here Aug. 22 by Representative Zablocki , in particular, set off political fireworks on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.

"I am convinced," he said, "that there is a need for the modernization of the military defense articles necessary for the defense of Taiwan, and I am confident that this administration and the Congress will provide whatever necessary defense articles this country needs and that our present administration will request of Congress."

He went on to say that "could very well include the FX." And he emphasized that the US decision on arms to Taiwan would "under no circumstances" be vetoed or in any way influenced by Peking.

Senator Glenn was more cautious: "I think most of the members of the Senate are willing to look at this [arms sale] on a very studied basis. I don't think they go into it with any great preconception that we are going to be a rubber stamp for the PRC or a rubber stamp for Taiwan."

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Mr. Glenn added that decisions on exactly what types of weapons should be sold to Taiwan are being made right now, and the decisions cover a broad range of weapon types -- "from supersophisticated fighter aircraft down to a lesser-level FX, down to a continuation of the present co-production contract perhaps with additional F104s."

Officials here insist that the FX is essential for Taiwan's defense as well as having "psychological and political implications."

Military spokesman Colonel Wang concedes that in quality of aircraft, "We're maybe equal with the mainland." But he says "their quantity is much larger." He adds that the PRC is cooperating with Rolls Royce to produce high-performance engines for its aircraft.

"These craft will be in operation in the mid-'80s. So we really need high-performance and sophisticated aircraft -- better than what we have now -- because we must control superiority of the air or we cannot maintain our security."

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