TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan has asked the United States for aerial refueling planes and is considering leasing vertical take-off and landing jets to help counter the threat from China, a defense official said on /The aim is to maintain the combat ability of the island’s air force in the event of a Chinese attack on its /China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949 and has vowed to retake it by force if there are formal moves towards /Taiwan says China has nearly 1,000 missiles pointed towards the island to back up the /The defense Ministry official declined to say what kind of aerial refueling aircraft had been requested or how /”If our airfields are destroyed by attack, then it will be necessary to have the option of refueling in the air so as to continue combat operations,” said the official on condition of /The ministry was also studying the possibility of leasing AV-8B Harrier II jets, made in the United States, the official said, saying their versatility would make them highly suitable in case the island’s airfields were knocked /The source was confirming comments made by deputy defense minister Ko Cheng-heng to lawmakers on Thursday as reported in Taipei’s China /But a previous request to buy 60 F-16 fighters has been denied by Washington, the island’s main ally and weapons provider, because of Taipei’s long delay in approving a previous $18 billion U.S. weapons package on offer since /Approval of the new fighter jets is dependent on passage of the budget for the $18 billion package in parliament, where opposition lawmakers have blocked it /Taiwan has 330 fighter aircraft against 700 Chinese jets and bombers that could conduct combat operations against the island without refueling, according to the Pentagon’s 2007 report on China’s military /And while analysts say Taiwan still maintains a qualitative edge in fighter planes and pilot training, that edge is /Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, recognizing “one China,” but is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island in case of an attack.

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