US Approves Second Arms Sale To Taiwan in a Week

US Approves Second Arms Sale To Taiwan in a Week
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

The decision marks Washington’s ninth weapons sale to Taiwan since President Donald Trump took office in 2016.

The U.S. State Department on Monday approved a new sale of 400 anti-ship cruise missiles to Taiwan in a deal worth nearly US$2.37 billion, after giving nod to an arms package of a similar size less than a week ago.

The decision marks Washington’s ninth weapons sale to Taiwan since President Donald Trump took office in 2016.

“The proposed sale serves U.S. national, economic, and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernize its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” said the State Department.

The deal will also help Taiwan “improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcoming the approval of the sale, tweeted that it “demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances,” allowing the country “to maintain a robust self-defense, regional peace, and stability.”

The new package, in addition to 400 Boeing Harpoon Block II missiles, includes 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems and exercise missiles, radar trucks, test equipment, and U.S. technical assistance.

It follows the US$1.8 billion deal announced last Wednesday, which includes 135 of Boeing’s air-to-ground cruise missiles and 11 Lockheed Martin truck-mounted rocket launchers. Both have now been submitted to Congress for final review.

In response, China said on Tuesday it will impose sanctions against Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon for offering weapons to Taiwan in an effort to “uphold national interests.”

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Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
A Taiwanese flag is seen behind standard Type II missiles on Kee Lung (DDG-1801) destroyer during a drill near Yilan naval base, Taiwan, in 2018.

The surge of U.S. arms sales plays into President Tsai’s plan of bolstering Taiwan’s defenses in the face of growing threats of Chinese military activity, a key promise in her 2020 re-election campaign.

Taiwan’s defense budget for 2021 rises more than 20%, from NT$35.8 billion to NT$45.3 billion, and accounts for 2.36% of the GDP.

“We have been trying very hard and making a lot of efforts to strengthen our capability,” Tsai told the BBC in an interview after winning a second term by a landslide. “Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China.”

Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan's representative to the U.S., said in August she has been negotiating a sale of naval mines and cruise missiles, weapons that would boost Taiwan’s coast guard and amphibious capabilities.

In fact, the Taiwanese government had requested some of the packages more than a year ago, but it is only being pushed through the approval process recently.

While the U.S. State Department declined comment, some say the sale takes on new urgency as President Trump seeks re-election on November 3 by taking a hard line on China. Others believe that since a Biden administration might be less willing to sell high-end weapons to Taiwan, striking a deal before election is all the more important. 

But the U.S., bound by the Taiwan Relations Act, has to “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character,” no matter who wins the electoral contest.

Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation, an American global policy think tank, said the U.S. has sought for decades to arm Taiwan with the goal of preventing China from invading or threatening the island with military operations.

The effort may have been upgraded, as China makes increasingly belligerent moves in the region. The U.S. is now building a strategy recognized within the Pentagon as “Fortress Taiwan” to counter Chinese military forces.

The U.S. government, by continuing to sell advanced weapons, including aerial drones and naval mines, plans to make Taiwan as difficult to attack as a “porcupine,” experts say.


READ NEXT: A Middle Path Between Strategic Ambiguity and Clarity on Taiwan

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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