The administration may tell Taiwan that if it insists on the sophisticated F4 Phantom instead of the Israeli-made Kfir interceptors that have been offered, it may get neither, government sources said yesterday.
Sources suggested allowing Taiwan a choice between the U.S.-engined Kfirs or more of the less-capable F5E jets it now builds, as a way out of the dilemma faced by the administration.
The White House wants to avoid offending China by directly supplying Taiwan with more advanced weapons, and the sources said some officials inside the administration actively support the "compromise" offer.
But they said there has been no decision on Taiwan's request for rights to build Phantoms. Whether to reject the Taiwan bid for the more sophisticated planee on which to base its air defenses in the 1980s rests with President Carter.
Under the compromise of allowing more F5Es, one source said Taiwan's needs for a more modern aircraft in the next decade could be considered "on a year-to-year basis."
The Phantom, a U.S. workhore in the Vietnam War, is now being phased out by the Air Force and Navy. It has been requested by the Taiwanese since 1969 but rejected because its range and attack capability would enable it to be used against the mainland.
The latest request came as the administration has renewed hopes of achieving full diplomatic relations with China, although it remains pledged to provide defensive arms to Taiwan.
Taiwan says it's not interested in the Kfir, an Israeli-manufactured interceptor that uses U.S. engines.
American sources said that Taiwanese have been officially notified that Vice President Mondale told the Israelis last weekend they have U.S. Permission to sell the jets to Taiwan.