The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it had approved a potential $180 million arms sale to Taiwan, a move that is bound to anger Beijing amid increasing tensions.
The State Department authorized a possible sale of eighteen MK-48 Mod6 Advanced Technology Heavy Weight Torpedoes and related equipment for an estimated cost of $180 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Wednesday.
“The proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability in current and future defensive efforts. The recipient will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen homeland defense,” the announcement said.
The Trump Administration has previously approved several major arms sales to Taiwan valued at some $10 billion in total, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets, M1A2T Abrams tanks and portable Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
In response to the announcement Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Thursday that, “China is firmly opposed to the US arms sales to Taiwan and has made solemn representations to the US. We urge the US side to strictly abide by the one-China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US joint communiques, and stop arms sales to Taiwan and military links between the United States and Taiwan to avoid further damage to Sino-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
A Pentagon report last year warned that Taiwan’s traditional military advantages over Beijing in the event of a cross-strait conflict were eroding as China modernizes its military.
Washington has long provided arms to the territory as part of the 40-year-old Taiwan Relations Act.
Beijing has frequently chafed at those sales, calling them a violation of China’s sovereignty. The country’s Communist government views Taiwan as part of its territory, though the two have been governed separately since the end of a bloody civil war in 1949.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as the US and Chinese government traded diplomatic barbs over the coronavirus.
The Trump administration has repeatedly blamed China for contributing to the pandemic’s spread by not providing timely and adequate information about its origins.
“This plague has cost roughly 90,000 American lives. More than 36 million Americans have lost their job since March. Globally, 300,000 lives– could be as much as around $9 trillion, according to our estimates, the cost imposition on the world by the Chinese Communist Party’s failures,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier on Wednesday.
Beijing has defended its handling of the outbreak, and maintains that the US is trying to “shift the blame to China for their inadequate response to Covid-19.”
The sale also comes days after Pompeo issued a statement congratulating Taiwan’s leader on her recent inauguration – a move fiercely condemned in Chinese state media.
“I want to say congratulations to President Tsai on her inauguration. The democratic process in Taiwan has matured into a model for the world. Despite great pressure from the outside, Taiwan has demonstrated the wisdom of giving people a voice and a choice,” Pompeo said on Wednesday.
The US sought to back Taiwan’s recent bid to attend the World Health Assembly as an observer, something Taipei had been able to do in previous years. However, that bid was blocked by China.