The US formally notified Congress of a proposed $1.8 billion in advanced weapons systems sales to Taiwan, a move sure to increase tensions with Beijing.
The notice released Wednesday says the State Department has approved the sales to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States of 135 Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles and related equipment estimated for more than $1 billion, 11 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) M142 Launchers and related equipment for an estimated $436.1 million and six MS-110 Recce Pods and related equipment for an estimated $367.2 million.
“This 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,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcement said.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that “consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. The United States also maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of Taiwan.”
“Taiwan intends to use its own funds for these purchases, which, if concluded, the proposed sale of these systems will enhance Taiwan’s defensive capability,” the spokesperson said. “The proposed sale of these systems will counter modern threats to Taiwan by increasing the operational range and capabilities of its F-16s and enhancing Taiwan’s close, medium, and long range artillery capabilities.”
CNN reported last week that Congress had received informal notification of these sales as well as two additional intended sales of unarmed Reaper drones and Harpoon missiles. The latter two have yet to be formally notified.
In a briefing by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokesperson Zhao Lijian repeated the line that the actions by the US undermines China’s sovereignty.
“China firmly opposes this, and we urge the US to fully recognize the serious harm of the arms sales to Taiwan, to earnestly abide by the One-China principle and the three joint communiqués, stop arms sales to Taiwan and the US-Taiwan military ties, and withdraw relevant arms sales plans to Taiwan, so as not to cause further damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Strait,” Zhao said.
Washington has long provided arms to the island under the terms of the 40-year-old Taiwan Relations Act, and there is bipartisan support for supplying Taiwan with weapons.
“The United States maintains an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and considers the security of Taiwan central to the security and stability of the broader Indo-Pacific region,” the State Department spokesperson said. “Our longstanding policy on defense sales to Taiwan remains consistent across seven different U.S. administrations, and contributes to the security of Taiwan and the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
There has been an increase in arms sales to Taiwan during the Trump administration as the US has grown closer to Taipei and tensions have risen with Beijing.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure targeted at Taiwan and to engage in meaningful dialogue with the democratically elected Taiwan representatives,” the spokesperson said.
The administration 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 Keith Krach, the State Department under secretary for economic growth, energy and the environment.
This story has been updated to include response from China.