The Trump administration has alerted Congress of its intent to move forward with three advanced weapons sales to Taiwan, a congressional aide and a source familiar told CNN Monday.
The move comes as the administration seeks to bolster ties with Taipei amid escalating tensions with Beijing. The sales are likely to further inflame those tensions.
According to the sources, the administration provided informal notification over the weekend of the proposed sales of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System – a long-range rocket artillery system that can strike targets up to 190 miles away – Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response – cruise missiles that are fired from aircraft and are designed to strike ground targets – and external sensor pods for F-16 jets.
The informal notification process is a common practice in which the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee get a heads up on planned sales, allowing committee leadership to raise concerns, give their input, or place holds.
Another congressional aide said that House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans received several new sales for review that they are inclined to support and as well as any additional sales that support strengthening Taiwan’s defense capacity, including the ability to counter threats across the Taiwan strait.
Reuters was the first to report on the informal notifications.
A Chinese Embassy spokesperson told CNN Monday that “China consistently and firmly opposes US arms sales to Taiwan and has firm resolve in upholding its sovereignty and security” and urged the US to “fully recognize the highly harmful nature of the arms sales to Taiwan and stop arms sales to and military ties with Taiwan, lest it should gravely harm China-US relations and cross-Strait peace and stability.”
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
A State Department spokesperson said that “as a matter of policy, we do not comment on or confirm proposed defense sales until they have been formally notified to Congress.”
CNN reported in mid-September that the administration was expected to soon approve another major weapons sale including drones to Taiwan.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper would not confirm the proposed sales in an event with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies last week. However, he noted that “what we’re doing in that space is to, of course, meet their defense needs.”
“Our partner there faces an increasing aggressive posture as well as pressures from the (People’s Republic of China),” Cooper said. “And our efforts there are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, and we want to make sure that what is available to Taiwan are defense articles and services necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense.”
Washington has long provided arms to the island under the terms of the 40-year-old Taiwan Relations Act.
Beijing has lambasted 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.
However, there has been an increase in arms sales to Taiwan during the Trump administration as the US has grown closer to Taipei.
The Trump administration has previously approved several major arms sales to Taiwan valued at more than $13 billion in total, including dozens of F-16 fighter jets, M1A2T Abrams tanks, portable Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and MK-48 Mod6 torpedoes.
In addition, the administration has sent a number of high-profile officials to Taiwan in recent weeks, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and State Department Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach.