The Administration has decided to go ahead with plans to allow the Japanese to build a version of the F-16 fighter plane, but President Bush has yet to make a final decision on terms of the agreement, the chief White House spokesman said today.
Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said “there are at least three or four basic issues regarding the agreement that we would want to sign” with Japan that still must be resolved.
Fitzwater, speaking with reporters on Air Force One as Bush flew here for a speech, said a final presidential decision on the so-called FSX fighter may not come until sometime next week.
He said Bush was “reviewing documents today and reading through position papers” on the plane on his way to Houston.
Once the President decides on safeguards, “then we would be able to announce that we are prepared to go ahead with an agreement,” Fitzwater said.
“What he’s deciding are the terms of the agreement that we would want to strike for the co-production of the plane,” the spokesman said.
Supporters say the deal is the best the United States can arrange with Japan, which opposes buying U.S. F-16s. Opponents say the technology transfer will help Japan further develop a civilian aviation industry that will compete with U.S. companies.
The conflicting views were aired at a National Security Council meeting Wednesday evening called to help resolve differences within the Administration over the controversial FSX warplane, which Japan wants to deploy in the late 1990s.